Founded in 2021, the AlUla Artist Residency is now in its second season and has, to date, welcomed 26 multidisciplinary artists from the region and abroad to pursue their artistic endeavours through experimentation in the unique and rich setting of AlUla. With interdisciplinarity and collaboration at its core, the programmes aim to foster dialogue and exchange between emerging and established artists, cultural practitioners including archaeologists, architects and botanists working on the ground, local practitioners, and members of the local community.
A palimpsest is a manuscript that has been erased and written over multiple times, leaving traces of earlier writings partially visible beneath more recent ones. In this sense the exhibition – “Palimpsest of Time” – is a metaphor for the resident artists’ explorations, embracing the diversity, complexity and layers of the human experience in AlUla. The show aims to present the diverse ways in which the artists have approached their work and the impact of the residency on their artistic development.
The exhibition opens at Madrasat Addeera – AlUla’s Arts and Design Centre in the cultural hub of AlJadidah – with a survey of the residency programme to date including photography and video footage of the 26 artists that have engaged in the programme.
The second section of “Palimpsest of Time” will showcase the processes and outcomes of the current artists in residence in dialogue with artists from the former residency which took place from October to December 2022. Hosted in Mabiti, a guest house and palm grove which is home to the artist residency programme, this section will present a total of 13 multidisciplinary artists who have all paid homage to the marks that the past has left on the landscape, the city and its society.
The artists and works presented at Mabiti include a romanticised investigation into the multiple meanings and symbols of date cultivation (Augustine Paredes); an uncanny account of man’s eerie, sometimes otherworldly encounters with nature (Monira Al Qadiri); a divinatory object that retraces the practices of the early Arabs and employs desert sands as messengers of fate (Sabine Mirlesse); a reading of the sedimentary strata of the region, transformed once again like building materials (BrickLab); polyglot poems that bring elements of the landscape into dialogue (Afra Atiq); a reinterpretation of territories through fictitious geographies (Agnieszka Kurant); artificial intelligence that gives form to the presence of women, often evicted from history (Daniah Al Saleh); an exploration of parasitic plants in the Arabian desert and their potential impact on the future of the Earth (Ayman Zedani); a fracture in the sensory world that opens onto its digital equivalent in the metaverse (Ben Elliot); an open-air workshop that is also the theatre of a fable about the excessive desire for power and the passage of time (Mohammad AlFaraj); a dialogue between the craftsmanship of metal and that of leather, around the ornate doors of the buildings of AlUla (Manon Wertenbroek); and a photographic walk through the oasis-city and the intimate knowledge held by its inhabitants, putting into perspective its past and rapid transformation towards the future (M’hammed Kilito).
About Arts AlUla
The creation of Arts AlUla within The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is a commitment to the next chapters in a millennia of artistic creation – celebrating cultural inheritance, presenting the art of our time, and shaping a future propelled by creativity.
AlUla has long been a consistent and ever-evolving hub of cultural transfer. It has been a place of passage, a crossroads for trade, and home to successive civilizations who carved, sculpted and inscribed their lives into the landscape. The work of Arts AlUla seeks to preserve this legacy: fuse the old with the new; the local with the international, keeping the arts central to the spirit of AlUla as a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage.
Arts AlUla will bring to fruition a series of new initiatives, projects and exhibitions. The artwork curation will speak to RCU’s vision for the continued development of AlUla’s contemporary art scenes: positioning the arts as a key contributor to AlUla’s character, the quality of life for its local community and the region’s economic future.
Arts AlUla focuses on transferring the talents of the Saudi nation and the local AlUla community into meaningful long-standing social and economic opportunities. This is a key part of the Journey through Time masterplan bringing together the 15 different landmark destinations for culture, heritage and creativity across AlUla.
For more information please visit experiencealula.com
About The French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula)
The French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) was founded in Paris in July 2018 following an intergovernmental agreement signed by France and Saudi Arabia in April of that year. Afalula aims to support its Saudi partner, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), in the co-construction of the economic, touristic, and cultural development of AlUla, a region located in the North-West of Saudi Arabia which benefits from outstanding natural and cultural heritage. The agency’s mission is to mobilise French knowledge and expertise and to gather the finest operators and companies in the fields of archaeology, museography, architecture, environment, tourism, hospitality, infrastructure, education, security, agriculture, botany, and the sustainable management of natural resources.