The 2022 edition of Desert X AlUla opened on 11 February. The exhibition, now in its second year, is the “Saudi version” of the traditional Desert X hosted every two years in the Coachella Valley in southern California. Hosted in AlUla, an ancient desert region in Saudi Arabia, this year’s event was curated by Reem Fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield on the theme of “Sarab”.
15 artists presented their works exploring the ideas of mirage and oasis, transforming the ideas of dream, fiction, illusion and myth into something concrete that dialogues with the desert. In this way, the artists created site-specific installations based on the relationship between the natural and artificial worlds.
Dana Awartani’s sculpture draws inspiration from the vernacular architecture of AlUla, taking the form of a concave geometric sculpture that refers to Nabatean tombs and imitates rock formations.
Claudia Comte’s work presents a progression of walls that impose their architectural presence within the natural order of AlUla’s canyons.
Land artist Jim Denevan creates ephemeral drawings whose interlocking patterns speak to the shifts in size and scale that so often shape our experience of the desert and our attempts to position ourselves within the vastness of boundless space.
Sultan bin Fahad
Sultan bin Fahad’s is a mud structure shaped like a desert kite.
Alicja Kwade’s architectural structures reflect and frame the natural artefacts she has encountered on the desert floor, which she has reorganised and integrated to create ever-changing perspectives somewhere between reality and illusion.
Abdullah AlOthman’s work is made of stainless steel plinths that interact with light and create a radiant space that seeks to manifest the experience of capturing the mirage for the first time.
Monika Sosnowska’s sculptural exploration of memory speaks to AlUla’s historical position as a centre and passageway of trade and its more recent cultural revival; using the rails of the Hejaz railway. The linear steel forms have been transformed into gigantic dry grasses full of possibilities for growth and transformation.
Shadia Alem’s sculptural installation adapts the art of origami, applying the basic principles of geometry and beauty to create forms that reference the literature, mathematics and mythology of the Arabian desert.
Serge Attukwei Clottey
Serge Attukwei Clottey’s installation addresses the experience of globalisation, migration and water equity by wrapping slabs of rock in meticulously crafted tapestries made from gallons of yellow kufuor, which are plastic containers used in Ghana to store and transport water.
Shezad Dawood’s work explores ideas of deep time and the geo-biological relationship between the desert floor and the nearby Red Sea through a pair of coral-like forms whose temperature-sensitive surfaces reflect the effects of climate change and man’s ongoing struggle to find a sustainable relationship with a rapidly changing ecosystem.
Working at the intersection of nature and technology Stephanie Deumer has created an underground greenhouse where a large array of solar panels capture the sun’s energy which is stored and transformed through photosynthesis.
Zeinab AlHashemi’s interactive sculpture uses discarded camel skins on an abstract, geometric base that resembles a rock formation in the desert; like a camouflage, these camel skin sculptures blend in with the mountains.
Shaikha AlMazrou’s long, swollen steel structures are embedded in the voids of the rocks, occupying the liminal state between stasis and movement, creating a silent but imposing composition suspended in inertia.
Khalil Rabah creates the mirage of an orchard of olive trees, which stand here in the desert as living beings removed from their indigenous land and longing to be returned, as an exploration of territory, survival and citizenship.
Ayman Zedani’s soundscape installation in a rock cave comprises horizontal sculptural threads and an audio projection of music, voices and footsteps, creating a cacophony of sounds that add to the chimes of nature.