Q&A With Sara Raza, Curator Of The Beginning Of Thinking Is Geometric: Maraya Art Centre Part 2

The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric is a group exhibition at The Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah extending through the summer months.

Do you remember the feel of the pencil, protractor, and compass in your hands as a student in Geometry class? If you are convinced you haven’t used that knowledge for years, think again. One of the main messages being communicated by this group exhibition is that geometry is fundamentally present in every space that we occupy, and that the structures in our daily lives—from music, to the constellations, to our national and physical borders—are in constant dialogue with the sciences whether we are conscious of this relationship or not.

Re-Mapping the Continent of Africa: Sharjah artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz has a university background in statistics and it shows—she has used her training to map out Africa in constellation-form. The equations and proofs she chose are mysterious and demand consideration, as do the formulas used by colonial powers to arbitrarily demarcate borders of the continent in the first place. Detail (2012)

Re-Mapping the Continent of Africa: Sharjah artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz has a university background in statistics and it shows—she has used her training to map out Africa in constellation-form. The equations and proofs she chose are mysterious and demand consideration, as do the formulas used by colonial powers to arbitrarily demarcate borders of the continent in the first place. Detail (2012)

An impressive lineup of both emerging and established artists from the region contributed works in a variety of mediums, and with the meticulousness of an alchemist, UK-based curator Sara Raza has arranged them in a way that demystifies the thinking sciences yet leaves room for free thought. This is not an impossibly academic homage to philosophy; it’s actually a young, experimental exploration that takes some work and reflection on the part of the viewer to understand, but it is worth the effort. To be bluntly honest, this is the strongest group exhibition I’ve seen in the UAE this summer. It is free, worth the entire family’s time and explores themes of Islamic art, philosophy, and mathematics in a deep yet accessible way. I was fortunate to have the chance to interview Sara Raza in greater detail.

Senna: A curved hut constructed very precisely of locally found wood and tree pods beckons exploration. Mobius Design Studio in collaboration with Faysal Tabbarah. Computer generated render (2013)

Senna: A curved hut constructed very precisely of locally found wood and tree pods beckons exploration. Mobius Design Studio in collaboration with Faysal Tabbarah. Computer generated render (2013)

Q&A with Sara Raza

DANNA: The exhibition is grounded in the Middle East and subtly alludes to mosaics and other geometric patterns found in traditional Islamic art. How might you name the relationship between Islamic art, philosophy, and modern science that is at work here?

SARA: Yes, the exhibition does explore Islamic geometric patterns, and these are rooted in mathematics and systematic thinking. In terms of taking a contemporary stance on the subject, I chose a diverse selection of visual media to articulate this curatorially. Take for instance the work of Fatima Al Qadiri, her Ghost Raid video in collaboration with Alex Gvojic uses computer animation, video gaming and the music video to comment on an experience of war and dislocation during the first Gulf War. Also Iranian-American artist Ala Ebtekar employs the subject of Iranian wrestlers, hyper masculinity alongside his interests in b-boys and hip hop culture, but when you look at his compositions you see the use of triangles and spheres, and these create geometric virtues and personalities.

Ghost Raid: A futuristic soundtrack and video game-like images of the First Gulf War blast in the background, a collaboration between Kuwaiti artist/DJ Fatima Al Qadiri and Alex Gvojic. HM Video 2.26 (2013)

Ghost Raid: A futuristic soundtrack and video game-like images of the First Gulf War blast in the background, a collaboration between Kuwaiti artist/DJ Fatima Al Qadiri and Alex Gvojic. HM Video 2.26 (2013)

DANNA: Please share any of the behind the scenes details that went into preparing the exhibition as Curator. Were you ever worried that the distinct pieces wouldn’t ultimately fit together?

SARA: In my opinion, one of the practical objectives of a curator is to be able to take an artist’s work and articulate that within a gallery or spatial context. As I initially trained as an art historian, I am aware that ideas don’t simply fall out of the sky, they are part of a process, a history that was created by artists and art. Applying these ideas within the gallery requires systematic thinking and an understanding of how artworks function and how to create harmony spatially that allows these works to exist both independently and collectively.

Corporeal Mappings: Geometry inherent to the body itself and the way that it is ritually manipulated. Hayv Kahraman. Painting, Oil on mobile panels, 2011

Corporeal Mappings: Geometry inherent to the body itself and the way that it is ritually manipulated. Hayv Kahraman. Painting, Oil on mobile panels, 2011

Photo Credits: Images provided courtesy of Maraya Art Centre and the artists

To plan your visit to The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric and Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah click here.