33 Songs, 99 Words by Sawsan Al Bahar
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Maraya Arts Centre in Sharjah invites everyone to look at Syrian artist Sawsan Al Bahar’s multimedia installation titled 33 songs, 99 words which is based on Arab music and poetry and explores how we usually experience music and songs. Curated by Cima Azzam (the centre’s curator), it will be on display until the 11th of January, 2024.

The large-scale installation comprises 330 3D-printed sheets elevated and suspended in the air. They represent 33 songs that Al Bahar inherited from her father over the past 33 years. The lyrics of these songs inscribed onto the sheets are not represented by words. One can see just their harakat (Arabic diacritics), the vocalisation marks that accentuate sound and pronunciation and visualise rhythm. The songs from this collection, deeply personal for Al Bahar, remain obscure. The patterns only reveal visual poetry and music. This way, they immortalise the ephemerality of music and pay homage to the power of individual and collective memory.

Sawsan Al Bahar, 33 Songs 99 Words (installation’s view). Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah, 2023.

In addition to 33 songs, 99 words, on view are three artworks in graphite on canvas which unfold recurring themes through 99 words. An audio element reveals a selection of instrumental moments from the 33 songs. Sequence, repetition, and musical form become visible through material rhythm.

The 33 songs, 99 words installation is a dialogue between songs from the past and the present. It references the long conversations, listening sessions, and research shared between Al Bahar and her father, a passionate music lover.

Sawsan Al Bahar, 33 Songs 99 Words (exhibition’s view). Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah, 2023.

About the artist

Sawsan Al Bahar is a Dubai-based artist, architect, and researcher, who was born in Damascus and grew up in the Emirates. She received her BS in Architecture and Design from the American University of Sharjah (UAE) and has a minor in Visual Art. In 2019, she pursued her education at the Angel Academy of Art (Florence, France).

Al Bahar’s art practice encompasses drawing, printmaking, installations, digital scans, and text. In her work, she delves into the concept of home as a myth. Other themes the artist is interested in are time, politics, and history within the Middle East. In her art, she documents history and explores its influence on personal narratives, so her work focuses on her life and family history. 

Sawsan Al Bahar, 33 Songs 99 Words (exhibition’s view). Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah, 2023.

The artist has displayed her works in multiple art events and solo and group exhibitions, such as Knocking on Doors (Casa Cazezzi, Montecchio Emilia, Italy, 2023); Talaliya (Firetti Contemporary, Dubai, 2022); LUZ II (Dubai Design Week, 2016); Made in Tashkeel (Tashkeel Art Hub, Dubai, 2015); 6 Degrees (American University of Sharjah, 2013); ARTVERONA: Firetti Contemporary (Italy, 2022); and others.

Among the artist’s achievements are having been granted the Massimiliano Galliani Drawing Under 35 Award (2023) and the Sheikh Khalifa Scholarship Award (2011-2013). In 2022, she was shortlisted for the Richard Mille Art Prize.

To get more information about 33 songs, 99 words, please visit its official web page.

You might also be interested in learning about the Another Empty House project and attending Only Life, Myriad Places by Sudarshan Shetty.

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