Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue to Turn Boat into Floating Site of Artist Interventions at 56th Venice Biennale
By Kevin Jones
In a move to take its “homegrown” cultural initiatives international, Dubai-based arts community Alserkal Avenue has announced the launch of the Safina Radio Project, a curated platform of artist interventions on a boat-cum-recording studio during the opening days of the 56th Venice Biennale. Navigating the Venice waterways on May 6–8, the boat will be the site of itinerant conversations, or “travelogues,” between selected artists and passengers, on topics responding to themes in “All the World’s Futures,” Okwui Enwezor’s curatorial platform for the Biennale.
Featuring participation from such artists as New Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective, British writer-filmmaker John Akomfrah and Emirati artist Hassan Sharif, the Venice boat programming will be recorded and broadcast over an online radio project that will have launched by the end of April. Hoping to appeal to culturally savvy listeners who are not necessarily engaged with art-world programming, the online podcasts will include curated alternative music and sound projects by artists including UAE-based Analog Room, Kamal Rasool and Scanner. “The idea is to make the programming accessible and broaden audience access points,” said Safina Radio Project curator Anabelle de Gersigny.
Alserkal Avenue, following the reveal of its expanded site during Dubai’s Art Week on March 16, has intensified its programming activities. While the Safina Radio Project clearly expresses Alserkal Avenue’s ambitions to reach a global audience, the focus remains nonetheless on issues and interests relevant to the local public of the United Arab Emirates. “We wanted to take streams of thought from the UAE and place them into the context of the Venice Biennale, with the help of MENASA [Middle East, North Africa and South Asia] artists,” explains de Gersigny.
The Arabic word “safina,” which signifies a “vessel” or “ship,” is used most notably in the expression safina nuh, or Noah’s Ark—the symbolism of which was clearly not lost on the project’s commissioners.