Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues with Dubai

Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues with Dubai

Mercer Union

Abbas Akhavan, Untitled, 2011.
Installation with video projection, rope and sea algae.

September 1, 2011

9 September–29 October 2011

Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art
1286 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M6K 1P4 Canada

Participating artists: Haig Aivazian (Sharjah/New York), Abbas Akhavan (Toronto), Amir Berbic (Dubai/Chicago), Lamya Gargash (Dubai), George Katodrytis (Dubai), Armin Linke (Berlin/Milan), Nikolaj Skyum Bendix Larsen (Copenhagen/London), Hajra Waheed (Montreal).

Curated by Srimoyee Mitra

Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues with Dubai is an exploration of experimental and critical art practices that have emerged over the last decade to grapple with the dramatic rise of the city. This exhibition is a search for a complex language to examine the impact of the large-scale infrastructural developments in Dubai, mapping their effect on how the location’s history and culture are being shaped.

Marketing itself as an exclusive oasis for limitless consumption, Dubai stands as an icon of late capitalism and unrestricted development projects in the 21st Century. These ambitions manifested themselves in the rapid rise of large-scale constructions that transformed the landscape from a modest port surrounded by an arid dessert to the site of luxury housing projects, business districts, malls, hotels, parks and golf courses, an artificial coastline and islands with idyllic sandy beaches. While the booming oil and housing markets fueled these developments and captured the imagination of tourists, investors and the high-end expatriate workforce, crucial challenges such as transparency, sustainability and the spatial division of its geography along socio-economic, cultural and racial lines were not addressed.

Using photography and video installations, archives, found objects and ephemera, the artists in the exhibition develop nuanced critiques of everyday life in the hyperbolic city. Each artwork challenges simplistic modes of viewership and underscores the zeitgeist of Dubai—a condition of transition and uncertainty that resonates internationally.

Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art acknowledges the support of its staff, volunteers and members, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council. Armin Linke’s participation has been made possible by the Goethe-Institut and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen’s participation is supported by the Danish Arts Agency. Frames for Lamya Gargash photographs have been loaned by the Art Gallery of Windsor.

For further information about the exhibition and parallel public programs, please visit

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Mercer Union
September 1, 2011

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