Desert X AlUla
Desert X AlUla 2024
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Desert X AlUla is an impressive site-responsive international exhibition, which is a crucial part of the AlUa Arts Festival presenting modern and contemporary artworks by Saudi creatives. This recurring open-air exhibit is held in the globally significant AlUla desert (Saudi Arabia), hence the name. The 3d iteration of Desert X AlUla is taking place from 9 February to 23 March and is curated by Maya El Khalil and Marcello Dantas.

Karola Braga, Sfumato. Desert X AlUla 2024. Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Under the theme In the Presence of Absence, this edition of the show challenges the conventional perception of deserts as empty and mute spaces. However, there is much more than meets the eye. The participating artists have engaged in a dialogue with the landscape, natural elements that shape it (such as wind and light), mythology, and history of AlUla to produce remarkable works emerging from the local context. Their commissioned artworks included in the exhibition examine ideas of the unseen and the inexpressible. The artists have visited the desert and spent some time there. Developed from this experience, their proposals that delve into themes of trade, migration, and time “are relevant to the region and connect with the wider world”, Maya El Khalil says.

Aseel AlYaqoub, Weird Life: An Ode to Desert Varnish. Desert X AlUla 2024.
Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

This year’s iteration of Desert X AlUla is being held in three locations. The desert landscape of Wadi AlFann features 15 key installations. The AlManshiyah Plaza, where the preserved AlUla Railway Station can be found, presents Hanging Garden, one of three installations by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama displayed in the exhibition. Additional three art pieces are installed amongst the black basalt landscapes of Harrat Uwayrid.

Ibrahim Mahama, Hanging Garden. Desert X AlUla 2024. Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Apart from Ibrahim Mahama, the list of those who are taking part in Desert X AlUla 2024 includes 16 people, such as, for example, Kuwaiti artist Aseel AlYaqoub (b. 1986), Brazilian artist Karola Braga (b. 1988), and Algerian-French artist Kader Attia (b. 1970), to mention a few.

Aseel AlYaqoub‘s installation Weird Life: An Ode to Desert Varnish is inspired by the desert varnish. It is a glassy mineral coating that appears on pebbles and rocks in landscapes like AlUla’s. Karola Braga showcases her Sfumato, a structure drawing inspiration from AlUla’s Incense Route. The artist employs scent to recreate the sensory world of ancient trade. Kader Attia displays his Whistleblower, several sculptures comprising blue glass bottles that whistle when struck by the wind. The resulting sounds prompt us to reflect on our collective responsibility to the Earth.

Kader Attia, Whistleblower (2024). Desert X AlUla 2024. Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

To get more information about Desert X AlUla, please visit the official website of the show.

You may also be interested in attending Summits of Solitude: Narratives in Nature by Ji-Hye Kim.

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