evoking a desert rose, saudi pavilion's silk sculptures empower women at venice art biennale

evoking a desert rose, saudi pavilion's silk sculptures empower women at venice art biennale

Shifting Sands: A Battle Song unveils at venice art biennale

 

At the 60th Venice Art Biennale, the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia taps into the cultural metamorphosis sweeping the Kingdom to present an empowering vision of womanhood. Amid the discourse of broadening perspectives and evolving notions of gender in the region, Manal AlDowayan’s multimedia installation, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, intertwines the sonic and geological features of the desert with the voices of women.

 

The expressions assert a collective sense of solidarity, unfolding across vast, crystalline sculptures, each evocative of a desert rose that contorts throughout the space. Illustrations and fragments of text gathered from media sources — prejudiced assertions referencing Saudi women and their selfhood and position in society — are inscribed across their silkscreened surfaces.

saudi pavilion's silk sculptures evoking a desert rose empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

 

 

manal al dowayan empowers notions of womanhood

 

Immersive and contemplative, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song sparks a profound reconstruction of perceptions of women of the Kingdom. The sculptural and sound works are shaped by participatory workshops led by Manal AlDowayan across Al Khobar, Jeddah, and Riyadh, granting over 1,000 Saudi women a united platform to assert their own voices on a global scale. Their self-expression is channeled through recordings of the ‘singing sands’ of the Rub’ al-Khali, a vast desert where the dunes hum and drone as they shift.

 

These multisensory traces of the region’s natural landscape envelop visitors as they walk through the sculptural blooms, their forms derived from a crystal commonly found in the desert sands. Like its intricate formation, for the artist, a desert rose layers multiple dimensions symbolizing fragility, ephemerality, femininity, and resilience. Additionally reenvisioning cultural customs and heritage rooted in gender, the exhibition derives its name and structure from Alardah and Aldahha, the ancient battle ceremonies traditionally performed by men for ritualistic motivation. Here, it is the voices of Saudi women boldly proclaiming themselves, through song, speech, and drawings. ‘I hope this artwork will empower women to find their voice and their space within this new chapter in history, much of which is still unwritten,’ reflects AlDowayan.

saudi pavilion's silk sculptures evoking a desert rose empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

 

 

saudi pavilion explores identity for ‘foreigners everywhere’

 

Curators Jessica Cerasi and Maya El Khalil, with Shadin AlBulaihed as the assistant curator, comment: ‘In the context of the Biennale Arte 2024 theme Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, in which the solitude of an outsider is met with the fellowship of shared experience, AlDowayan resists a narrative of ‘othering’ and offers forth voices that have for too long gone unheard. Shifting Sands: A Battle Song brings together womanhood, landscape, and tradition in an immersive work that boldly looks toward the future.’ Shifting Sands: A Battle Song will be on view from 20 April to 24 November 2024 at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, Venice.

saudi pavilion's silk sculptures evoking a desert rose empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

saudi pavilion's silk sculptures evoking a desert rose empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

saudi pavilion's silk sculptures evoking a desert rose empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

evoking a desert rose, saudi pavilion's silk sculptures empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia     

evoking a desert rose, saudi pavilion's silk sculptures empower women at venice art biennale
Manal AlDowayan, Shifting Sands: A Battle Song, 2024. Photography by venicedocumentationproject. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

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