UAE: What does it mean to be human? University students answer through AI art, interactive exhibits

As part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s anniversary celebrations, 32 university students, alumni gather to present series of engaging workshops and live performances

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 4:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 4:26 PM

Dozens of students from universities in the UAE have come together to share their artistic interpretation of what it means to be human in form of activities, workshops or performances that engages a specific audience group at Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Held as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fifth anniversary celebrations, a group of 32 university students and alumni (under the age of 25) gathered under the museum’s iconic dome to present a series of engaging workshops, digital interventions, and live performances.

The programme, ‘University Take Over the Museum’, which was launched in August with activities commencing in November, saw hundreds of students from across the UAE respond to the challenge question of ‘What does it mean to be Human?’.

The participants were asked to design an experience or work that engages one of the museum's key audiences (children, families, youths, or adults) by interpreting the museum's collection, message, and core values.

The museum received 20 proposals from students from various participating universities, including Zayed University, UAE University and NYU Abu Dhabi. The 18 proposals, which echoed the narrative of Louvre Abu Dhabi as a universal museum that celebrates humanity’s shared creativity, were selected to be presented during the museum’s first ‘University Take Over the Museum’ edition. To date, more than 3,000 museum visitors have participated and engaged with the students’ works.

The projects

During the Takeover, visitors to the museum were able to enjoy a series of projects such as the Tales of Pottery Painting, a workshop by Mezna Mohamed Alzaidi, Mazoon Habreesh Alkatheeri, Tasneem Taha Albaiti; Everybody is an Artist, an interactive installation led by Kyle Adams; I-denti-Y, a captivating performance led by Lujza Reova; Art and Glissantian, a relation-multimodal performance by Matthew Tan, Grace Shieh and Binaya Pauldyal ; Real Art an digital interaction challenging the rise of AI-generated art led by Aakarsh Singh and Corban Villa and Unheard, audio recordings of real conversations by Klaithem Salim Aljabri.

Everybody is an Artist

Kyle Adams, 23, a student of Interactive Media at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) presented, the ‘Everybody is an Artist’, a participatory installation where Louvre Abu Dhabi’s visitors participated and contributed to the project by creating small artworks of their own, which was digitally captured and projected in real time onto an interactive projected canvas inside the galleries.

“The desire to create, share, and discover art is one of the key factors defining our humanity. We created 'Everybody is an Artist' in order to examine this fundamental human trait while engaging museum goers in a participatory creation experience,” Adams told Khaleej Times on Thursday.

“The piece responds to the prompt: “What does it mean to be Human?” by demonstrating how ideas bounce off of each other serendipitously, with each person’s contribution affecting the piece as a whole in interesting and unpredictable ways.”

The piece allows participants to showcase their own relationship with art by placing their ideas in context with those of other participants in real time.


20-year-old Emirati student, Klaithem Salim Aljabri, from UAE University presented a project: 'Unheard' - an audio art installation where pink phones are placed near artworks that feature representations of women in the Louvre Abu Dhabi's collection.

Visitors listen to recordings of real conversations surrounding the themes reflected in the artworks. The conversations centre around the female form and the perception and representation of women throughout history

“These are three recordings of conversations between women in my life discussing different subjects relating to paints that are already at Louvre Abu Dhabi,” she said to Khaleej Times, adding that she based her project on elements that shaped her the most as a human being and as an Arab woman.

“These elements were the conversations that I have heard around me growing up between women in my life, and how that shaped how I see the world and how I see myself as well. The second thing was to me being a human is being honest to yourself and settling all your emotions and being authentic.”

Real Art

Another project, Real Art, an in-gallery interaction, was presented by Corban Villa, 22, a second-year student of Computer Science at NYU-Abu Dhabi.

“The aim of “Real” Art is to bring into focus the rise of AI-generated art and place it in the context of an already established gallery,” said Villa.

“Through this project, we aim to highlight the changing landscape of the art world and what the relationship between AI art and art made by humans will be. Will it be symbiotic? Will it be competitive? Or will they just go on their own two independent paths? Questions like these will be tackled by making audiences compare an artwork that already exists in Louvre Abu Dhabi collection and one that was generated by Dall-E - an AI generator. Participants will have to select which piece they think was created by a real artist and which one was developed by AI.”

How to become museum professionals

Sarah Louise Nunn, Education Unit Head at Louvre Abu Dhabi (Project Director) said: “The programme has given students a real-life platform to investigate their ideas and respond to the collection.

“As the next generation of creatives, first-hand encounters with a range of museum professionals have empowered the students to evolve concepts forward and engage with audiences beyond Abu Dhabi and the UAE in a meaningful way.”

She added that the initiative is like a training programme for new museum professionals or art students who want to work in creative industries. “The programme is more like an internship because it helps students to bring theory into reality,” said Nunn.

Arwa Al Salami, Senior Education Officer (Project Manager) at Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “We are delighted to witness how well the takeover has been received by the universities.

“The extraordinary projects that have been showcased today have allowed our audiences to discover the museum through a different lens and a variety of rich experiences, and we look forward to continuing to build on this response to create value for all those who visit Louvre Abu Dhabi.”


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