Absurd art in Al Serkhal Avenue

Wacky exhibition So Long and Thanks for all the Fish at Lawrie Shabibi


New show So Long And Thanks For All The Fish inspired by writer Douglas Adams brings eccentricity to town.

There is something distinctly absurd about the latest exhibition at the Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Alserkal Avenue. Maybe it is the deliberately playful theme. Maybe it is the fact that the show’s creators and gallery owners have purposefully set out to be more experimental before the, (normally quiet), summer period. Maybe it is the show’s title: So Long and Thanks For All The Fish. Actually, it is all of those things and much more besides.

‘As the summer approaches, things tend to get a little more quiet in the Dubai art market,’ says the gallery’s co-founder William Lawrie. ‘This is our fourth summer at the Lawrie Shabibi and we are showcasing a group show of artists we don’t normally represent. We wanted to do something with a sense of humour and that is a recurring summer theme for us.

This is not a prime spot and we were determined to do something a bit more experimental’.

The resulting collaboration between four distinctly different artists is a surrealist collection, which hints at possible futures. Preoccupations with sci-fi, fantasy, transformations and magic permeate the show, which combines animation, painting, photography, text and video. The works by British artist Adam Dix, for example, have a distinctly futuristic tone. ‘The paintings seem to satirise the idolisation of technology. People have said it has a shamanistic or tribal quality,’ says Lawrie of a painting depicting men seemingly worshiping and dancing around brandishing satellite dishes in hand.

Other pictures from the Dix collection show the apparent reverence paid towards communications networks and the allure of constant connectivity. So far, so apocalyptic. There is a similar demonstration of futurism, but through retro eyes, in the photographs of Basim Magdy. Each abstract image is paired with an accompanying phrase often turning an image of extreme normality to a magical world of its own. The images manage to be simultaneously epic but moribund, meaningless yet insightful and, like most things at this show, futuristic yet retro. The snapshots seemingly come from a photography archive to conjure up an emphatic yet indecipherable narrative when viewed alongside the profound phrases presented by the artist. What does it all mean? You will have to decide for yourself.

The video art of Taus Makhacheva, although coming from a different time and place, still manages to evoke the same feelings of existing in different spaces in time. Both the distant future and a recent past are brought to life in the video that reveals the absurdity of highly commercialised Eastern European weddings. The video defies explanation or expectation and is as curiously fascinating as it is humorously extraordinary.

No spoiler could prepare you for the performance but expect to see Makhacheva herself dressed as a ‘giant deconstructed napkin’ rolling around on the floor of an upscale wedding hall like a turtle tipped on its back.

Confused? You will be in the best possible way.

The show is rounded off by a video animation from Iranian artist Tala Madani. Taking place in a dark alleyway, the animation is a fantastical vignette irreverently addressing gender issues and cultural taboos. Again, we’re not giving too much away to share the piece’s name: Eye Stabber.

The exhibition name was inspired by the fourth book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. ‘Sometimes the name of the show comes first and the ideas flow from that. Sometimes it is the other way round. With this show the name definitely came last. But it just seemed to fit,’ says Lawrie. Indeed it does.

The Lowdown

Exhibition: ‘So Long and Thanks For All The Fish’ until July 17, Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 346 9906).
Artist: Various
Price of works: On request

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