Malja’s first exhibition explores how social media effects art
Time Out Bahrain staff
Malja’s first exhibition, Double Tap, showcases pieces by seven regional artists exploring how social media can bridge physical and digital art. One of the artists, Yasmin Sharabi¸ tells us more about the thought behind the work.
In the 1960s, philosopher Marshall Mcluhan coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’, meaning that the medium is essential in determining how a message is perceived and how much of an influence it has on its audience.
Through ‘Double Tap’, the first art exhibition at the newly established creative space Malja, the affect of the ‘social medium’ is presented through projections and projection mapping by seven regional artists, including myself. In turn, the artwork displayed reflects the culture of the online world that we inhabit, which heavily relies on appropriation and borrowing, and of communicating and learning about art through a network of virtual sources, as opposed to ‘traditional’ means of arts education.
Basically, we are exploring how social media can act as a bridge between the two worlds of ‘physical’ and digital art.
The artists presented in this exhibition – Jenine Sharabi (Bahrain/Palestine/America), Asia Fuse (Bahrain), Mo Awad (Jordan), Hirad Sab (Iran), Omar Al Abdulhadi (Saudi Arabia), Salman Al Najem (Bahrain) and myself (Bahrain/Palestine/America) – exemplify those who are not limited in their use of medium. They may create digital work but are also familiar with and employ other materials. We can clearly see this, and the exhibition’s message, on their own Instagram accounts – the images or ‘exhibited’ works integrate and amalgamate varying ideas, concepts and techniques.
Through limitless galleries of inspiration and instantaneous access to material online, a sense of interdependence to one’s online community begins to occur, where commonalities of expression surface and shared thoughts, sentiments and themes arise.
To demonstrate the theme, artist Asia Fuse, Bahrain’s own Aysha AlMoayyed, presents ‘Indifferences between Like and Love’, a charcoal drawing of a car crash with contorted limbs of camels protruding through the wreckage and smart phones scattered on the ground of the scene.
When asked to submit work for ‘Double Tap’, Asia Fuse turned to literature, particularly that of JG Ballard.
Ballard’s novel ‘Crash’ (1973), speaks of the interconnectedness of the past, present and future, and how our appreciation of the future ceases to exist when we are allowed to overindulge on the limitless ‘options’ and choices of the present – choices that have the ability to grant us instant satisfaction.
Overlaid with projected family snapshots and scenes of her life in Bahrain, Asia Fuse’s work is suggestive of our dependence on our virtual lives and on social media, particularly in this region, to such an extent that it desensitises us and puts us in harms way.
The artist was initially inspired by the film’s audio, extracted from an old 1950 cassette tape that her grandmother had given her. ‘Upon hearing it, I observed that the words “like” and “love” are often interchangeable,’ she tells me. ‘I felt compelled to express this concept and draw comparisons between the way in which the “like” button in social media is utilised – through a symbol of a “heart”.
‘Social media invites us to express our opinions on varying stimuli but offers us limited response options. Therefore we lose the ability to differentiate between strong emotions, and our reaction and response becomes almost mechanical, one made without thinking or considering.’
Despite this sense of immediacy and currency, many of the topics explored in ‘Double Tap’ resonate with reminiscence and longing, of a desire to document to the past. Through a series of digital collages, Omar Al Abdulhadi employs apps to juxtapose and overlay pop cultural motifs and traditional imagery, resulting in representations of digital nostalgia.
Hirad Sab typically explores the manner in which virtual representations in the media often induce a sense of nostalgia within the viewer, and considers ways to measure the difference between what we perceive in the media and what reality is.
Similarly, in my work, ‘To the Seafront’, images and footage of the island Lamu, Kenya, are projected onto used dhow sail. Many of these scenes bear eerie similarities to old scenes of Bahrain, despite the massive differences in infrastructure and development.
Because of this, my experience there was nostalgic, but nostalgia owing to secondhand accounts and old mediums of documentation of Bahrain.
Ironically, my means of communicating this sense of nostalgia to my network of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ on Facebook and Instagram was through the instantaneous nature of my smartphone. Reopens on March 22. Open daily noon-10pm. Amwaj Islands (3232 3000).