December 4, 2023

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Kuwaiti Artist Monira Al Qadiri: In Conversation

Please join exhibiting artist Monira Al Qadiri and curator Murtaza Vali, for an online conversation around the work presented at DARC, and related themes in the artist’s practice more broadly.

Monira Al Qadiri’s work is presented as part of Tending Land, a program marking the 40th anniversary of the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC). Behind the Sun recalls one of the worst human-induced environmental disasters in recent history, when retreating Iraqi forces set ablaze Kuwaiti oil fields during the Gulf War. In this work, Monira Al Qadiri raises questions about humanity’s detrimental impact on land, whether through extractive capitalism, organized violence and endless conflict over resources, or deliberate acts of ecological sabotage. Found footage of the catastrophe is juxtaposed against contemporaneous poetry recitations broadcast by Kuwait Television. The visuals document a long drive under ominous dark clouds, which had turned day into night, to arrive at a horrifying spectacle, where everything seems to be burning indiscriminately, including the soil, trees, and even the air. Meanwhile, the voiceover recites poems praising the divine sense of order, presumably witnessed in the harmony of the world—a world which has clearly been turned upside down in the imagery of an inferno. The orator also evokes the cosmic balance, evinced by the earth’s relationship to the sun and other stars, and yet ironically, the artist shows how the sky is occluded behind raging flames and enormous smoke plumes. The work’s continued relevance is tragically evident, with frequent environmental disasters, and humanity’s exploitative relationship with the land, warning of an impending end to life as we know it.

Monira Al Qadiri (b. 1983) is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as the legacies of corruption. She is currently based in Berlin.

Murtaza Vali (he/him/his) is a critic, curator, and art historian based in Sharjah and Brooklyn. His ongoing research interests include materialist art histories, ex-centric minimalisms, ghosts and other figures of liminal subjectivities and repressed histories, the weight of color and contemporary art of the Indian Ocean littoral. A recipient of a 2011 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing, he publishes regularly in various international art periodicals and in exhibition catalogues for non-profit institutions and commercial galleries around the world. Vali is Curator-at-large of FRONT International 2022: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art and Adjunct Curator at the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, where he curated the widely acclaimed inaugural group exhibition Crude (2018), which explored the relationship between oil and modernity across South West Asia. Other recent curatorial projects include: (with Uzma Rizvi) Accommodations, the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale (2021); and Substructures: Excavating the Everyday (2020-22), a series of exhibitions about “intimate infrastructures” in the Gulf at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi.

About DARC

Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC), formerly SAW Video, is a not-for-profit, artist-run media art centre that supports artists through programming, education, and access to equipment and mentorship. Our mission is to foster the development of a diverse community of media artists, actively promoting equity regardless of race, age, class, gender, sexual orientation, language, or ability. Our core principles are independence of expression, affordable access to all, and paying artists fair compensation for their work. Initially founded in 1981 as a project of the Sussex Annex Works (S.A.W.), SAW Video and SAW Gallery later moved to Arts Court and formed the multidisciplinary centre Galerie-SAW-Video. In 2001, SAW Video became independent from SAW Gallery, forming SAW Video Association. In 2020, the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) became the organization’s new identity, expanding our digital presence online and asserting our role as a point of support for artists.