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Artist-in-residence

Committed to supporting artists, curators, and researchers by offering them time and space to pursue their research without the pressure of deadlines and production commitments, the Residencies Programme values the open-ended nature of artistic research and embraces multiform expressions of creative enquiry. Aiming to facilitate the production of knowledge, this studio-based programme is dedicated to established and emerging artists and serves as platform for critical exchange in Southeast Asia. The Residencies Programme offers a wide spectrum of programmes aimed at sharing the process of artistic research with the public - Residencies OPEN / Studio Sessions / Insights, which range from open studios, artists’ talks, conversations, performances, and screenings. The Residencies Programme unfolds through annual cycles and runs by nomination only. Every year, a rotating pool of curators and arts professionals from all over the world is invited to nominate two artists for the residency. The nominated artists are subsequently invited to submit a research proposal along with their portfolio and CV. Ultimately, the Residencies Committee, an international panel of experts, reviews the submitted materials and designates the artists who are awarded the residency.

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Dana Awartani

Residency period

The artist was scheduled to be in-residence from July to September 2020. Due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak and international travel restrictions, the residency could not be carried out as planned.

About

Ranging from painting and sculpture to performance and multimedia installation, the artistic practice of Dana Awartani (b. 1987, Saudi Arabia) imbues forms, techniques, concepts, and spatial constructs that define Arab culture with contemporary awareness. The timeless relevance of forms and the wisdom embedded in traditional crafts are harnessed to tackle issues of gender, healing, cultural destruction, and sustainability in a constant effort to straddle continuity and innovation, aesthetic experimentation and social relevance. Past solo exhibitions include The Silence Between Us, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2018) and Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, United States (2017). She has participated in numerous group shows and biennales such as Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2020); Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, Kochi, India and the 1st Yinchuan Biennale, Yinchuan, China (both 2016), among others.

Focus

Historically, textiles have played a pivotal role in civilisations and have long been intertwined with spirituality. Premised against a contemporary culture of mass production that engenders damaging social, economic, and environmental consequences, Dana Awartani aims to revive and reimagine the role textiles can play in modern society in order to move towards a more sustainable future. Combining knowledge from ancient medicinal practices and traditional textile dyeing techniques, she plans to create ‘healing fabrics’ which will eventually come together to form immersive ‘healing spaces’. Mindful of the effect of the built environment on the human psyche, Awartani redirects a consumption-driven inhabitation of space towards more sustainable forms of cohabitation and dwelling. The context of Singapore will provide her with numerous entry points to engage with different practitioners of medicinal and artisanal skills that will help further her research into holistic and harmonious coexistence.

Residencies brochure (October 2020 – February 2021)

Image: Listen to my Words, 2018, 7 panels of hand embroidery on silk and audio installation. Courtesy the artist.

Public programmes

In the Vitrine

Dana Awartani
Loose Leaves.
Process, materials, sounds from Listen to my words
31 Oct 2020, Sat - 3 Jan 2021, Sun

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By disclosing rarely-seen preparatory drawings, sketches, and embroidery tests from the artist’s archive, Loose Leaves offers an intimate foray into the process of making Listen to my words (2018). An immersive installation by Dana Awartani, Listen to my words combines hand-embroidered silk panels and recordings of Arabic poems recited by modern-day Saudi women to confront issues of silencing, invisibility, and gendered divisions of space deeply entrenched in the cultural fabric of the Middle East.

Drawn from the significant but scarcely documented tradition of female poets in the Arab world from the pre-Islamic era to the 12th century, the poems selected by the artist express feelings
of love, yearning, and pride. They relay modes of awareness, stances of resistance, and acts of empowerment often centred on the female body.

The distinct visual language articulated by the geometric patterns—bearers of sacred values in Islamic culture—references the ornamental motifs found on jali (or mashrabiya), lattice screens used in traditional Islamic architecture to control the circulation of air and light as well as to shield women from the male gaze.

Presented alongside the original audio recording, Loose Leaves layers a selection of preparatory studies in the enclosed space of The Vitrine to provide a glimpse of the subtle negotiations that inform Awartani’s creative journey across different techniques and materials.

 

The rich visual language of Dana Awartani’s (b. 1987, Saudi Arabia) paintings, sculptures, and textile installations incorporate traditional Islamic art forms into contemporary aesthetics. Engaging with the relationship between geometry and nature, she harnesses the timeless and enduring relevance of forms in order to deconstruct contemporary issues such as gender, faith, loss, and cultural destruction. Past solo exhibitions include The Silence Between Us, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2018) and Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, United States (2017). She has participated in numerous group shows and biennales such as Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, Kochi, India and the 1st Yinchuan Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China (both 2016), among others.

Dana Awartani was selected as Artist-in-Residence in the 7th cycle of NTU CCA Singapore’s Residencies Programme. Her residency could not take place due to the ongoing global pandemic. 

Loose Leaves. Process, materials, sounds from Listen to my words was realised with the support of Athr Gallery, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

 

A digital version of Listen to My Words was co-produced by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age, an online platform for new commissions initiated by TBA21 as a response to the Covid-19 crisis.

 

Image: Dana Awartani, Study for Listen to my words, 2018, gouache on handmade paper. Courtesy the artist.

st_age x NTU CCA
Dana Awartani
Listen to my words, 2020
2 Nov 2020, Mon - 31 Mar 2021, Wed

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Co-produced by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age, an online platform for new commissions initiated by TBA21 as a response to the Covid-19 crisis. It is a provocation to artists, institutions, practitioners, and activists to engage with the many issues that the pandemic has made even more visible in the precarious current moment.

Watch Listen to my words (2020) here.

 

In the empty expanse of the screen, a delicate pattern of straight lines and curved shapes is slowly traced by an invisible hand. In Islamic visual culture, where figurative representation is notoriously forbidden, abstract geometric compositions chart spiritual journeys and convey ideals of cosmic interconnectedness. The pattern created by Dana Awartani for Listen to my words is inspired by the ornamental motifs of jali and mashrabiya, latticed screens used in traditional Islamic architecture to regulate light, airflow, and heat in the arid climate of many Middle Eastern countries. Besides this climatic function, jali also play a socially and visually divisive role, marking the confinement of women within the domestic sphere and the impossibility of seeing them clearly.

The entrancing emergence of the geometric design becomes progressively tangled with the voices of modern-day Saudi women that the artist invited to recite a selection of verses. The selected poems were written by Arab poetesses from the pre-Islamic era up to the 12th century, and reflect the significant but scarcely documented tradition of women’s poetry in the Arab culture. They relay first-person expressions of longing, yearning, and pride penned by women who, in different eras and in different corners of the vast Arab region, found similar strength and empowerment in their bodies and audaciously reversed the male-dominated discourse of desire. 

By interlacing geometric symbolism and poetic utterances, Awartani’s digital animation unleashes these powerful voices once again and orchestrates an intergenerational dialogue that subtly questions the status of women in contemporary society. 

Listen to my words developed from a multimedia installation of the same title realised in 2018.

 

Ranging from painting and sculpture to performance and multimedia installation, the artistic practice of Dana Awartani (b. 1987, Saudi Arabia/Palestine) imbues forms, techniques, concepts, and spatial constructs that define Arab culture with contemporary awareness. The timeless relevance of forms and the wisdom embedded in traditional crafts are harnessed to tackle issues of gender, healing, cultural destruction, and sustainability in a constant effort to straddle continuity and innovation, aesthetic experimentation and social relevance. Past solo exhibitions include The Silence Between Us, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2018) and Detroit Affinities: Dana Awartani, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, United States (2017). She has participated in numerous group shows and biennales such as Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2020); Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, Kochi, India and the 1st Yinchuan Biennale, Yinchuan, China (both 2016), among others.  

 

Image: Dana Awartani, Listen to my words, 2020, animation and sound. Courtesy the artist and Ali Alsumayin.