Under the title ‘The View from Dubai: Censorship and Resistance in the Emirates’, the internet magazine Hyperallergic published an interview by Mostafa Heddaya with the Dubai based artist UBIK. (UBIK aka Vivek Blech named named himself after a novel by Philip K. Dick. He is living in the Emirates, from a family migrated from India).
From the article: “In my screed from a few weeks ago, “When Artspeak Masks Oppression,” I cited the Guggenheim-Emirates partnership as an instance of contemporary art’s institutional culture operating in service of authoritarianism. One of the examples I mentioned of the propagandistic character of this relationship, facilitated by a language termed “International Art English,” was the Dubai-based artist UBIK’s description of an installation of his called “Tahrir Square” (2011).
I selected the passage from his website because it was illustrative of how International Art English can neuter even the most plainly subversive event, in this case recasting Tahrir Square, the site of bloody protests against a murderous regime, as a vacant thought experiment. Though the example was never meant as a generalized indictment of the artist — my comment was on language and institutions, not the art itself — I am glad to have been recently able to catch up with UBIK and hear his frank and often biting perspective on the climate for contemporary art production in the United Arab Emirates.”
Then the interview with UBIK starts. In it he explains about his own development, the development of the artists in general in the UAE, the possible role of museums, the freedom space artists have, the role of expat artists and the role of language (International Arts English) has in making topics acceptable and also in covering up the core of some topics.
UBIK: ‘(..) Emiratis don’t tackle governmental issues, at least amongst the young generation I haven’t seen any political artists coming out. Amongst the older generations, Mohammed Kazem is probably an example — and the Flying House crew — they did a lot of experimental political work. Today, it’s expat artists [doing critical work].’
For a link to the interview click here.