Rami Farook interview

Traffic gallerist talks about graduates' exhibition

Gallerist, curator and artist: Rami Farook
Gallerist, curator and artist: Rami Farook
‘Monitor’ as it looks in the gallery
‘Monitor’ as it looks in the gallery
‘New Year Resolutions’ by Rami Farook
‘New Year Resolutions’ by Rami Farook
‘Prototype of a pedestal waiting for a monument’ by Rami Farook
‘Prototype of a pedestal waiting for a monument’ by Rami Farook
Sarah Abu Abdallah’s work is on show in ‘The Graduates’
Sarah Abu Abdallah’s work is on show in ‘The Graduates’

While many galleries slap a collection of their artists up on the walls over summer (which we’re not complaining about, it’s actually a great time to see a range of art in one place), Traffic gallery has done something different: one of its galleries is showing the works of four graduates of the Fine Arts programme at The University of Sharjah, while the other is showcasing a journal of sorts by the gallerist himself, Rami Farook. His thoughts are manifested in everything from a barbecue with a miniature Capitol Hill sitting atop it to a blown-up version of a gift shop map of Arabia in the 1700s and a neon scribble of Barack Obama’s signature (in blue, of course). The show is more about process than aesthetics. We speak to the Emirati collector, curator and social critic about how it feels to now have his own work on display.

You’ve gone from being a collector to a producer of art, how did that happen?
I like to say that at Traffic gallery we ‘collect, exhibit and exchange’. I started out collecting, but then felt like, okay, to collect is one thing, but the next step in my social responsibility is to curate, to start sharing it all. Then I started working with a range of great artists – I never went to art school, but I learnt from working with these people – and the natural progression for me was to move into experimenting with making my own work.

So are you now an artist first and foremost?
No, curating is actually what I enjoy most – with curating you get a chance to work with different topics, people and mediums, and then you develop spaces – you also work on publications, which become the trace of the exhibition in history. Your exhibition, ‘Monitor (Issue 0)’, is set up like a journal, why is that? The way this project started was literally by me taking notes. It started off in early May – I was in London and watching TV – the news was breaking that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Arab had been killed, and this was the day after the Royal Wedding, the excitement of which I experienced, being in London. Then the day after that was Bin Laden’s death. During this whole period I kept a journal and took notes and I thought, ‘you know what, I want to create something physical, I want to do something that I can share with people, something about the state of the world today’. I’m also currently working on a website – which will be www.state.ae – it will go up in September and continue this idea of making a journal.

What do you see as the state of the world?
I definitely have an opinion, but I feel like to throw out an opinion that sees a problem, and to not have a solution, is a waste of time, and so the works in the show are an attempt at a neutral documentation – and are also there to initiate discussions.

Showing alongside your pieces are the works of four female Fine Arts graduates, tell us about that...
In late 2010 I decided that my summer shows annually would be of graduates – I feel I have a social responsibility to give these new artists a platform to exhibit and start building a collector base. I planned to open up the whole gallery to graduates but this year I only found five I wanted to exhibit (one of whom will have his own show in the gallery later in the year). That left just one gallery open, which pushed me to do my show. I actually love that my first show is alongside works of graduates.

So you’re all first timers?
Yes, and these girls are gutsy! I joke about this and say it’s kind of like the Beyoncé song ‘Run the World (Girls)’, but I do feel it shows a trend, we’re going through a phase right now where women are the leaders.

Indeed. Do you have anything else to add?
Our September exhibition is what’s next… on September 14 it opens at The Third Line, and on September 15 it will also open in Traffic. ‘Social/Antisocial’ will deal with human behaviour – it’s going to be Traffic artists, Third Line artists and works from my collection – including six works from Banksy. Also, one more thing to add – we have a ping pong table in the gallery, and every Thursday we have a tournament if anyone wants to join!
See www.traffic.org or call 04 347 0209 for more information

The lowdown

Exhibition: ‘Monitor (Issue 0)’ and ‘The Graduates’, until August 31 at Traffic, Umm Suqeim Road, Al Quoz. Ramadan timings: 9am-3pm (04 347 0209)
Artists: Rami Farook (UAE) in ‘Monitor (Issue 0)’. Sarah Abu Abdallah (Saudi Arabia), Hala Ali (Saudi Arabia), Sofia Byttebier (Argentina) and Nada Dada (UAE) in ‘The Graduates’
Price range of works: The works from ‘The Graduates’ cost from Dhs730-Dhs7,340, the works from ‘Monitor’ are not for sale – ‘the only return I want is feedback and discussion’, explains Rami.

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