The Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi has an irrational fear of moving, brought on by a recurring nightmare that has plagued her sleep since she was a young girl. Ironically, when I sat down to interview her over coffee, she was on the phone negotiating a leasing agreement to secure a flat in Dubai, planning out details for yet another relocation. Having received her Bachelors degree from Yale just last year, Farah is in the throes of trying to establish herself personally and professionally in Dubai. Having your career’s first solo show is definitely one way to make a splash! As she spoke, Farah carefully measured her words in the charmingly unaffected manner of someone not yet accustomed to speaking with journalists.
Putting her phone down and leaning forward, she explained the dreaded bad dream this way, “Every summer of my life, my family has traveled from the UAE to the US to stay in a house on Cape Cod. When I was eleven years old, each May I started having this recurring nightmare in which I would be walking around the neighborhood and I’d find the house and there would be a tricycle in the front yard, the door would be open, and I’d go inside and look around and call everyone’s names but the house would be empty. There were signs that people had just been there—board games left out, food in the fridge, but everyone was gone.”
The exhibition is brilliantly placed in Dubai, a transient melting pot crawling with global citizens and third culture kids who are constantly struggling to define their identities and develop a sense of belonging.
Her first solo show, Hung From the Moon, is the visual manifestation of the nightmare and explores the duality of home as foreign and familiar. The exhibition is brilliantly placed in Dubai, a transient melting pot crawling with global citizens and third culture kids who are constantly struggling to define their identities and develop a sense of belonging. Many people here will identify with the artist’s own quest to determine whether home lies within walls, national borders, a mother tongue, or is simply a state of mind.
Al-Qasimi considers Hung From the Moon to be an ongoing project and admitted, “I have thousands of photographs that I chose from for this show. I selected the images that appear to have a humorous strangeness to them. They are comforting until you look harder and realize that there are ripped seams here.” The ripped seams hint at an underlying sinister quality, the unconscious savagery of every day domestic life.
A woman’s perfume tray with a backdrop of bright flowers slowly dying in the background.
The remains of a deliciously oily birthday cake, the serving knife left at a flippant angle, the frosting eye of some desiccated sugar animal gazing out helplessly from a bed of torn aluminum foil.
The scene of a child’s birthday party, a once-loved balloon animal forsaken half-deflated, left for dead.
The exhibit itself consists of just 7 pieces, and my main criticism was a desire to see more of the artist’s work— I fell into the story her images were telling and was abruptly jolted out of my reverie too soon to wake up fully satisfied. Was it a dream or a nightmare?
Hung from the Moon can be viewed at the Pavilion in Downtown Dubai 16 May through 31 August 2013.
You can find out more about Farah Al-Qasimi on her website.