March 15th, 2022 - May 9th, 2022
The city of Manama’s name traces back to "the place of rest", in reference to its legacy as a place of respite for merchants traveling through historic routes of trade. The city’s name implicates its figurative and geographic significance for generations of dwellers whose stories - both factual and fictional - are dormant in the context of national history. The artists works trace dominant narratives that shaped Manama such as the British imperial legacy, trade history, and urban planning allows certain versions of history to be scrutinized. The exhibition offers varied interpretations of the realities that define Bahrain’s capital today, as opposed to sensationalized, nostalgic sentiments of its past. The exhibition includes five Bahraini artists whose work collectively trivializes Manama’s existence today and provokes questions such as: How did we get here?
Mariam Al Noaimi
Jaffar Al Oraibi
Nasser Al Zayani
Yateem Excavation (2020)
Aluminum foil pressings, site photographs, works on aluminum, excavation log.
Nasser Alzayani’s work,Yateem Excavation, is composed of: a display table showcasing aluminum foil pressings, an accompanying fictional excavation log, site drawings, and photographs of the original construction grounds at Yateem Centre. The works are site-specific material studies of Yateem Centre’s flooring retrieved from the location of their display. In Ya-teem Excavation, Alzayani positions himself as the Chief Archaeologist uncovering the grounds of the mall, in search of artifacts that metaphorically represent ‘the foundations of Manama.’ The artist delves into the realm of pseudo-science, where fictional methods and experimental practices allow distance from his classification as an artist. The artifacts extracted through his staged mining include tiles engraved with patterns that resemble ancient cuneiform, and stamps that signal details of material import. Alzayani’s interest in preserving the fleeting memory of Yateem Centre and its legacy in Mana-ma prompted him to this exploration. The work references the importance of aluminum production as an economic driver in Bahrain, while simultaneously emphasizing the materiality of aluminum as an analogy. These fragile traces of time are reflected in the ephemeral and malleable markings in the city’s architecture, and by extension throughout Yateem Excavation.
Jaffar Al Oraibi
Mixed Media. Dimensions variable.
Jaffar Al Oraibi’s work ‘Wasla’ examines the social fabric of Manama through the analogy of a breaking point that manifests as a fracture. The two-part work consists of a multimedia work on canvas and a collection of disfigured street signage. The artist draws on his observations of the city, the interactions between the Old and New Manama, and on a communal level - the lifestyle and rituals of the existing local inhabitant of Manama. The work is a product of his conversations with both current and previous residents of Manama, whose anecdotal reflections on the historic borders of the city provides the framework for the current condition of Manama. The artist employs symbolic references: traditional craftsmanship, found objects, and cartography that exhibit the material foundations of Manama and its multiplicity of experience.
Ali Hussein Merza
50 Aluminum Cans, Wood, Ink. Dimensions variable.
Ali Hussein Mirza‘s installation piece Balek is a chaotic assembly of tin cans on a wooden transporta tion barrow. The installation draws visual references from Souq Al Manama, where the artist ritually visited with his father. The invisibility of the agent that carries the structure hints at the social strata of the ‘hamali’ or the migrant worker, and the nature of their occupation/representation in Bahraini society. The installation is a manifestation of a childhood memory, where his recurrent encounters with the ‘hamali’/ transportation worker were cement ed with the repetition of an angry warning: “Balek!” - short for Khali Balek - ‘watch out’. Through revis iting this memory and analyzing both the subject and object being transported, the artist extracts under current narratives of migrant workers, origin and belonging, trade and import. Collectively, the cans have an imposing presence and evoke a visceral embod iment of heaviness, burden, and pain. They connote notions of temporariness and disposability, but also novelty, and material goods - signaling the origins of trade and its historic importance in Manama. With this work, Mirza poses questions relating to Bah rain’s commerce industry in Manama and the subjects that activated its legacy yet remain invisible in the context of history until the present day.
Symmetry of Absences: A City With No Windows (2021 - 2022)
Video, Sound, Performance Series. Dimensions variable.
Symmetry of Absences: A City With No Windows follows a narrator who describes a late-night walk in Manama. As the narrative unfolds, so does the intentionality, or lack thereof of his walk. Through the transformation of meaning and logic, the artist presents a tale riffing on existential nuances and the failure in highlighting patterns of understanding. The project is spread over a multichannel audiovisual work, a conversational music score, and a live performance. In developing Symmetry of Absences: A City With No Windows, Hujairi sifted through notes he had taken from different sources: thoughts and observations from his personal late night walking practice, oral histories collected from Bahraini folk musicians, his audiovisual research archive, and extrapolations from his practice as a composer-sound artist. The compilation is an invitation to consider - and reconsider sensory cues that occupy the immediate and mundane.
Mariam Al Noaimi
Photographs, sounds, maps. Dimensions variable.
Maryam Al Noami’s multimedia series: Parallelism, combines audio recordings, photography, and conceptual cartography works to trace the subjectivities in mapping Manama by different communities. The work was conceived by approaching the ‘Old Manama’ district with an urban ethnographical lens. Walking around the area with Manama residents, the artist identified dis-tinct narratives that embody different markers of societal belonging or lack thereof. As a part of her research, Al Noami asked for tours from certain individuals that represented diverse micro-communities in the vicinity. The participants include an older generation of Bahrainis from Manama, migrant workers, tourism representatives, and expats to name a few. Through first-hand anecdotes, historical and sociological analysis, Al Noami animates the stories of these communities. Her layering their experiences against one another, identifying meeting or departure points, and questioning elements of fact and fiction.