Extraordinary Experience : Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013 – Extra Ordinary


First thought

I looked at the title of this year’s exhibition…”Extra | Ordinary”, I smiled. It reminded me of my last year’s blog post when I said, “Since my first interesting interview with Laura Egerton I knew this experience will be extraordinary.”
Abraaj Group Art Prize. How to turn normal/trivial things in life into something else, full of meanings!
Brilliant! I spent some time thinking (which is not normal) before starting my day-to-day on-site. Will it expand my vision for a new inspiration and philosophy about Art and life ?!
How  …. ?
I did not have a formal Art education. I am not an Art school graduate. Maybe I do not know most of the “terminology” and “theories” about Art, but I am happy that I live my own dreamy Art world.
I will not talk about the artworks in details here. AGAP issued a book for every artwork, colorful designed books made that have everything one need to know. Therefore, if you are looking for raw/detailed info, you have to look into these nice books. I will talk here about my point-of-view/experience/hallucinations.
I was one of the lucky people who was able to be there. Installing the artworks on-site. I do not deny that if I came as a visitor I will not have the same point-of-view. I tried my best to help. I took advantage of time to ask and communicate with the artists, cause this is how I “educate” myself about philosophies, life, ideas and the message they tried to communicate. This is the ideas I felt. It is not necessary correct or logical. It could be my complete hallucination!
Artists, Artworks 
– “Common Elements”
The puzzle that made me reread it a lot. First sight at common elements, made the common uncommon and my common nonsense to sense. I could not hide my curiosity to know what these things are. I engaged myself with Iman Issa in-order to help her positioning and arranging the pieces, the thing she always denied and left me frustrated. Iman Issa wanted to do everything by her own. She was holding her paintbrush and painting her canvas. I took a place aside to watch what she was doing. I took many pictures of the process. She rearranged the pictures/words many times. She rearranged the objects many times. I think that all the positions are combined to be the artwork. I saw the complete artwork formed. The puzzle, the objects were abstract. The combination of words and pictures are something normal and for some people they make no sense at all, but together they are not. Together they formed an old man who talked about a story. A story of everyday life of a girl who lived, struggled and loved and lost there in the words. She was called life.
– “The Miraculous Lives of This and That”
Huma Mulji impressed me, when I saw her sneaking inside the cabinet to connect the lights after we installed it. We placed every piece inside the cabinet and we were discovering them as well. Such a wonder!
I do not deny that the smell of formaldehyde blew my five senses away, but it was part of the experience. Engaged in a way I will never forget. I remembered my grandmother’s cabinet, which has things inside only God knows about. All the story of the years, memories and forgotten puzzles are inside. Maybe Huma Mulji’s work was like putting a spotlight on a part of Middle-Eastern normal life habit, but it was different. My parents have similar cabinet, and I went to their home the same night to discover my family’s miraculous life! The idea was brilliant. I never expected to look back in my life and investigate pieces of stuff I always thought they were trivial, but I did and I did it continuously for five days with a wide smile. I am still doing it to my family’s cabinet and I still didn’t discover the story, maybe because what was built over years can’t be learned in few days, maybe it’s never meant to be known.
What happens inside the cabinet stays inside the cabinet. This is the miraculous life of me, you and everyone around.
– “Backgrounds”
Hrair Sarkissian is a special person. I met him and accompanied him for almost one hour without knowing he is the Artist. I liked him. Hrair Sarkissian has this special aura and that familiar friendly face that makes you feel you knew him for ages. Hrair Sarkissian artwork was special too. It was represented in special place outside Abraaj space. It was looking special. It was installed in a special way. Yet, the idea also was special. I cannot deny that every illuminated huge photo of them took me somewhere else, maybe to the same city, the original studio was located or to the fantasy place, it represents. As it was supposed to take the person in the studio somewhere else and view his picture with background like he is somewhere else. He just showed six pictures of photography studios with their internal decorations. I loved the piano studio. It was so deep. I almost listened to a piano melody that sounds like million colors in my mind played by black and white keys. I would really love to see the rest of all the studios (hundreds were taken).
These studios are the remaining monuments of old photography age before inventing the complex digital studios. No one knows where humanity is going in the process of building gateways of dreams and visual illusions, but we all agree that we will go beyond what we know now.
–  “FIRE/CAST/DRAW”
“Search for the faces of your enemies” Maybe it was the metaphor for the use of bullets. Each small object cast from lead has the same amount of lead in one bullet. Rayyane Tabet is more like a philosopher, Tried to solve a problem that was in his mind since his childhood. His grandmother used to cast lead in a way to drive the “bad spirits” away from him. The floor was full of these small objects of lead (Almost five thousands). They looked nice though. He spent almost two days putting them on the floor. I spent two hours moving them from the floor to the boxes. They kept pinning my fingertips with their sharp edges. I imagined what can they do if they are real bullets! And No I didn’t find my enemy’s face, cause my enemy has no face!
– “A Very Short History of Tall Men”
There were a dark room at the end of the venue. I wondered for four days what would be there. First, they told me, its gold! Then I knew it was gold!

Small statues of military leaders who took power by militarily coup for some days (maybe hours) then people took them down. It was interesting having the concept of small gold statues in bubbles with lighting from underneath. It was all in a dark room. That how history knew them!
Vartan Avakian never told me the secret of casting the statues in the bubbles, but I loved that I did not knew. It is more interesting to keep the mystery.
Military coup is nothing but a small statue of gold in a bubble. It is not useful and may look good and appealing for lot of people. As it held the use and the value of gold in a bubble, it keeps freedom and justice away!
Inspiration, Philosophy
The artwork is not the product, as it is perceived. The artwork is the complete process in which the artist create it. It’s the process from thinking about the idea till making it last in a representational way that can be felt. Thinking about an idea that is born from life experience of an Artist, a human experience. The artist will pour his own life and personality into his work. The work will never be perfect, but it will be what he reflected from his heart with the help of tools and skills he developed over time. Any artist puts part of his soul into his artwork.The way artwork is experienced is not just perceive with shallow senses. It is not looking at it, watching or hearing it. It is the deliberated thinking of what is it; it involves  conscious and unconscious levels of human mind. It is the reverse engineering of the artwork creation process. It is the way to receive the idea and feel it the way it was created in the first place; a transfer of a story or experience. Humans are story-teller by nature and that what is it all about.
Anything in-between is the process. Art is a way of communication, Ideas with feelings and emotions, Connecting souls. What makes the artwork means something is the idea and the way the artist represent it to tell something. The emotions that generated the idea and the way it is formed with experience and memory. The idea is combinations of emotions, personal made theories and imaginary created world. Successful artist can translate anything to an artwork. Good tools cannot create artworks, but artists can, even without tools.
Art is a part of everyday life. It is not necessary a painting or a sculpture. Delicious omelet is an artwork. Beautiful suit is an Artwork. Free-verse is an Artwork. Showing love is Art. Everything human creates/do/feel to tell a story or made other human experience ideas/emotions is an Artwork in some sense. Speaking about extraordinary experience, on its own way.
Brilliant Team
– Laura Egerton (AGAP Curator)
I worked in so many fields with so many people in my professional life, which exceeds ten years. Laura Egerton is not the first curator I met, not the first manager I worked with. Laura Egerton is one of the hard-working people I ever met. She was pregnant but she was working without rest with full awareness and efficiency. I was impressed. I used to feel embarrassed when I leave the site before her, or when I come in the morning after her. Meeting and working with Laura Egerton changed a lot in my understanding about working women and work ethics. She is one of the people who earned my respect. It was also one of my extraordinary experiences. She was not a boss. She was a real leader.
– Murtaza Vali (Guest Curator)
The way I met Murtaza Vali was funny and nice. Remarkable personality. Humility and calmness is the best that’s describes him. I really appreciate his style of work. He listens to all comments. He thinks deliberately. He takes all opinions in consideration  He supports the artists in an empathetic way. Murtaza Vali is one of the people who really know and feel what he is doing.
Closing the Curtains
As the curtains were closing the scene of Art Dubai this year, I was preparing myself mentally to return back to real world. Real world that has an office, authority, bosses and piles of ugly work. Things were not as they were before this week. Getting out of your comfort zone will always lead to discoveries in your way back. It’s a journey to the unknown coming back with the known.
Remarkable/Funny Encounter
A strange man, spent almost an hour moving from artwork to another, standing and deeply looking. He really made me curious. When he finished he passed by me and looked with a smile. Made that gesture by his shoulders (rising shoulders) with rolling eyes,  and said : “Well … it makes sense to someone !” .. I replied “Indeed” …