Mohammed Kazem – Directions
18.06.2023 – 20.08.2023
Mohammed Kazem is considered to be one of the most prominent artist in the Emirate of Dubai and its neighboring Emirates. A true ambassador of Arab art, he has presented exhibitions around the world, from the Guggenheim Museum in New York to the Arab World Institute in Paris. Following his participation in the first group exhibition in Germany at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen in 2002 (which was held under the title “5/UAE”), the exhibition “Directions” at the Ludwig Museum Koblenz is Mohammed Kazem’s first solo museum exhibition in Germany.
Mohammed Kazem (*1969) was born in a time of great change: three years before his birth, the oil resources in Dubai were discovered and two years later the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should be founded. This historical turning point led to a rapid change in the familiar environment: dizzying skyscrapers were built where the view used to be lost in the endless expanse of the desert and made Dubai one of the most modern regions of the world and at the same time a hub between East and West within a few decades.
Mohammed Kazem is a universalist with multiple models: “I was heavily influenced by European artists,” he says. “Early on in my career, I was struck by the morphological work of impressionists like Monet. I also greatly admired the design work of the great French, Italian and German artists. Then I evolved. I focused on the formal elements of the painting. I’m drawing today. I work with minimalist, monochrome painting […] not based on an exhibition or an event. I need contact with the elements of nature. Immerse yourself in cities, in life. I’m inspired by places and their colors.” Dubai, that’s his everyday life. “I have witnessed the development of Dubai. This was inevitably a time of change, which has propelled my art,” he says.
For over thirty years he has explored video, photography and performance to discover new ways of capturing his cultural environment and personal experiences. His conceptual approach is influenced by his training as a musician, as he deals intensively with the development of processes and ephemeral phenomena such as sound and light. Using subtle means, he traces the cultural and social changes in his country. Two major thematic lines have become particularly important to him in his conceptual works: the localization of space and time and the mutability of light.
In one of his earliest works, he positioned himself with flags on the beach between Dubai and Sharjah and documented the change in the city‘s silhouette within only a few years apart. During the same years – and often recurring in modifications – he used coordinate numbers, which he threw into the sea off the coast of Dubai as digits milled out of wood and which were then left floating away. He used algorithms to oscillate between his own subjectivity and objectively measurable changes. Again and again the artist questions directions and boundaries (“Directions”, since 2002), which in this way he connects to scientifically based data such as GPS coordinates, whose “permeability” and “questionability” he breaks open at the moment when he lets them find their own way (e.g. swimming).
Against this background, socio-political questions about borders and nations are dissolved in their rigidity and the drifting apart is characterized. Thus, many of his works deal with questions of social cohesion in times of radical upheaval, which go hand in hand with the loss of one‘s own cultural identity, without verbalising them in an accusatory manner. Rather, they are general questions raised and, above all, the possibility for the viewer to determine their own position in the course of globalization.
The second major line that has occupied him artistically for a long time is dedicated to the phenomenon of light, which is also subject to change. It is not only the time of day or the seasons that influence the perception of light, but also light pollution in particular, which is increasing in the desert state of Dubai and in almost every metropolis in the world. With his series of „Scratches“ (since the early 1990s) and „Collecting light“ he carries out the sound and the visibility of the light with minimal interventions through scratches in the paper. Mohammed Kazem develops these elaborate works in a gesture that is as meditative as it is philosophical, which in turn also represents a reflection of his own present.
In recent years he has participated in group exhibitions including 21.39 Jeddah Arts (2020), Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), Guggenheim New York (2016), Yinchuan Biennial (2016), Sharjah Biennial (2015), Gwangju Museum, among others of Art (2014), Photo Festival Houston Biennale (2014), Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2013) and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012). In 2013 he represented the UAE National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with an immersive video installation entitled Walking on Water. His first group exhibition took place in the Ludwig Forum in Aachen in 2002 under the title „5/UAE“.
The current exhibition was created in cooperation with the Van der Koelen Foundation for Art and Science (Mainz) and is financially supported by the Ministry of Culture and Youth of the United Arab Emirates.
A catalog for the exhibition will be published by Chorus Verlag, Mainz. Preis: 32 € (126 Seiten, DE/EN).
You can find the flyer here.
Podcast SWR2 “Mohammed Kazem. Measuring the World” by Natali Kurth here
Vorskizze zu Mohammed Kazem: „Collecting waves”, 2022, überarbeitete Fotografie. Entstehungsort: Al Hamriyah Public Beach – Sharjah – UAE © Mohammed Kazem 2023.