With the help of the UAE landscape, the installation Desert Is a Forest created by Sunoj D and Namrata Neog is trying to answer the question of what relationship and hierarchy arise if you imagine that the desert is a forest. The installation can be seen in Jameel Arts Center until the 4th of September, 2022.
Desert Is a Forest is a Third Artist’s Garden Commission at Jameel Arts Center. Along with seven Jamel gardens developed by Anouk Vogel, thanks to the annual commission, artists are developing and experimenting.
As visualized at the Jameel Arts Centre, the garden explores the UAE landscape biodiversity, the interconnectedness of animals, humans, plants and the natural mineral deposits formed in the desert.
“Somewhere between time and infinity, between the land and the sky or the ocean and the mountain, thrives a landscape so dense and complex that on occasion, tentacles of light open up a ‘forest’. A landscape that is lived, negotiated, adapted and adopted by each of us in a complex entanglement of relationships, languages and identities. This project’s intervention begins with the thought of how to ‘think like a forest,” say the artists.
The garden contains various plants indigenous to the UAE. They are traditionally used by humans, animals, and for medicinal purposes.
The plants chosen for the garden grow naturally in the desert, especially where goats graze. They are often confused with weeds. Due to the domestication of the goat, some plants have increased in numbers since farmers and goat herders grow a larger quantity of plants to feed the goats, and other plants have become rare.
There are also mineral deposits or ‘mineral licks’ in the Artist’s Garden. They are often formed on the surface of stones or pools of water. They attract animals, plants and humans for their important mineral nutrients.
The exhibition Desert is a Forest analyzes the politics of food, domestication, relationships between humans and non-humans, and the way we see and interpret the environment. The installation tells the special history of the UAE’s plant ecology and nutritional habits.
Eventually the desire is to see the plants grow over the seasons in its time at Jameel and how in each season, changes have meaning either to the plant itself or the viewer or the goat. The project will also evolve over time.
Sunoj D (lives and works in Parudur, Kerala) is a contemporary visual artist. He graduated in painting from Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore and with a post-graduate degree in Printmaking from Bangalore University. His works are a reflection on the politics and fluidity of meanings in materials, stemming from a critical engagement with the landscape and the myriad relations that shape it.
Namrata Neog (lives and works in Parudur, Kerala) is trained in history, archaeology and anthropology from Delhi University, India and Cardiff University, UK. Her work revolves around inquisitions of human/non-human negotiations in the landscape and the politics of seeing.
You can learn more about the exhibition on Jameel Arts Centre