For the last two years, I have been obsessively researching the underwater world and its materialisations, diving at the site of a shipwreck I have visited all my life. Discovering the mysteries of an underwater world is akin to a rediscovery of oil, because it has given me so much to work on and to create from. The vibrant colours of algae growing on the shipwreck in the summer become languid and pale in the winter, enunciating a more subtle beauty. Patterns form, morph and regrow over the course of a week, a month or a year. I observe the transformations and become aware of new pathways for understanding the world around me and within me.
I have experimented with mesh dresses by submerging and tethering them to the shipwreck, giving nature the next set of decisions. I have returned at intervals to inspect the growth and decay of the ecosystems that grow on the dresses. Time produces intricate expressions of the algae’s biological community.
For this project, I have chosen to continue working with these underwater explorations, this time also retrieving objects and colours from my hidden world, that will be recreated for a theatrical performance. I have written a script that can be performed on the stage of the theatre in Manarat Al Saadiyat and have hired performers to wear my costumes and to perform a hypothetical historical moment revolving around the shipwreck. I rewrite history, by researching documents at the municipality and re-enacting certain moments in a play. I also document another part of the growth process at the shipwreck and expand it by putting multiple objects underwater and filming a performance in action on this shipwreck.
We have taken over the theatre space at Manarat, myself and other two artists, creating a world within a world at the Fair. My contribution has been through creating props and embroidered sculptures that will identify my work in that space. I envisage several performances during Abu Dhabi Art, with props which are brought onto the stage. After each performance the props will return to being silent standalone sculptures in this space. I hope to create an aquarium that will be part of the performance. This aquarium will be large enough to fit a human inside, who will also perform for the audience.
I have worked with others on creating my props. An embroidered dress was created in India, carpet weavers were commissioned and performers enlisted. I have also sourced antique furniture to be placed around the theater, to create an identifiable seating area linked to my work. As part of the nature of my work, I like to learn more about the expertise and craftsmanship of other countries; I like to touch upon indigenous crafts. I would like to discover more work by craftswomen in the future, to see how it can be translated and used within my work.
Ayesha Hadhir, (born 1994, Abu Dhabi, UAE) studied visual art at the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University. Hadhir works predominantly in installations, using textiles to create textured pieces – centralising the materials she uses, namely brightly coloured 701 thread. She experiments with mesh garments to be placed underwater. Her work is inspired by elements and objects that revolve around familial histories and activities, such as diving and fishing. Her latest work involves the documentation of underwater installations that she has created from found objects. In her young career she has exhibited solo with ‘Al Doobah’, curated by Walter Willems, at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, in 2018. The artist has also participated in group exhibitions including ’Tashweesh’, commissioned by UAE Unlimited at Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah, 2019; 35th Annual Exhibition, curated by Nasser Abdullah, Emirates Fine Art Society, Sharjah, 2018; ‘Emirati Traditional Games’, curated by Sumayya Al Suwaidi, at Al Qattara Arts Centre, Al Ain, 2017; and ‘Do Art, Do it Now’ commissioned by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, 2017. Hadhir was selected as one of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) recipients, in collaboration with Rhode Island School of Design, for the ‘Community and Critique: SEAF 2016/17 Cohort 4’ exhibition, and is currently in an art residency with the Cultural Foundation. She works in arts programing at Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi.