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UK, Saudi Arabia & UAE artists to create digital artworks from 1000s of miles apart 

Published in The Saudi Gazette on 14 - 01 - 2021

The Arab British Centre, in partnership with the British Council, announced the artists selected for the Winter edition of their Connect ME Digital Residency program. Connect ME pairs creatives aged 18-30 based in the GCC (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) and the United Kingdom to create collaborative digital work over a 4-week program of online mentoring by a leading artist or curator.
The Connect ME program was developed in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a digital continuation of the Arab British Centre's creative exchange program Making Marks, which promotes creative exchange and international collaboration between the UK and Gulf countries.
This is the second edition of the Connect ME residency, which will this time be led by mentor Manal Al Dowayan, a multi-media artist from Saudi Arabia who is equally recognized for her work in sound, video, neon, and sculpture. Her artworks are in public collections in Museums around the world, including L.A County Museum, the British Museum, and Ithra Cultural Center.
Manal said "I am delighted to have been invited to mentor on this program and am intrigued to see what these exciting artists will produce over the duration of the Connect ME digital residency. They represent a new generation of emerging creatives whose paths are being uniquely shaped by the pandemic and its impacts on the cultural sector.
"As mentor, I am looking forward to getting to know the artists' work, encouraging their ideas, and guiding their collaborative process as they work together from thousands of miles apart."
The 4 artists, aged between 23 and 30, selected for this edition of the residency are based in the UK, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, work in mediums including visual journalism, multimedia design, experimental archiving, and sensory experience production. They were selected from 53 applications by a committee featuring mentor Manal Al Dowayan, and representatives from the British Council and the Arab British Centre.
The selected artist pairs are Dina Khatib and Ollie Cameron, and Meshal Al-Obaidallah and Carolin Schnurrer.
Khatib is a multimedia designer based in Dubai. Through a research-intensive process, she explores various ways through which different forms of media can be integrated, and embraces the constantly shifting nature of her practice. Dina joined the UAE National Pavilions research team for the 2020-2021 Venice Biennale, and has also participated in Jameel Arts Centre's Youth assembly curatorial team in 2020.
Of her involvement in the residency, Dina said: "I am excited to see the work that comes out of a close collaboration with a stranger, especially one who has been influenced by a different cultural experience. Now that we are adapting and re-adapting to new evolving means of communication, I am particularly interested in seeing how our different practices will inform each other through a hands-on collaboration."
Cameron is an Illustration graduate from London who was recently awarded BBC Student Visual Journalist of the year. In his work he experiments with how illustration can be used to document the world around us. In particular, he is drawn to the ways art can visualize topics that are somewhat intangible, from drawing the presence of radiation, documenting a tumor surgery, illustrating an algorithm or trying to capture the feeling of being watched.
He is also currently the designer and story boarder for Project Dastaan, an initiative, which reunites 1947 Partition refugees with their childhood homes and memories using virtual reality.
Ollie said, "It has been hard for myself and other artists to collaborate throughout the global pandemic, so this residency provides an amazing window to re-connect with people. The digital residency is not just a replacement for the face-to-face Making Marks exchange but instead is an exciting new platform to explore the interesting and often bizarre ways that we can continue to share art and ideas, even when thousands of miles apart."
The second artist pairing is Meshal Al-Obaidallah and Carolin Schnurrer. Born in Washington, DC, currently based in Riyadh, and originally from Qassim, Meshal Al-Obaidallah .began as a visual artist in 2014, as an experimental mode of archiving narratives. Through cultural artifacts, his conceptual works document the current issues and affairs of Saudi Arabia, revealing the underlying power structures.
In 2016, he won at the 4th International Emerging Artist Award in Dubai, and since then, his works have evolved into a series, covering the geopolitical landscape of the Arab world and the region in general.
When asked why he applied to Connect ME, Meshal said: "I was drawn to the digital and collaborative aspects of the Connect ME residency. My recent works explore Internet culture and multimedia, and I want to continue to experiment with this new direction in my practice. I look forward to learning from and collaborating with artists that have a different skill set than mine."
Schnurrer is a London-based artist and designer, producing sensory experiences with a variety of media, from sound performance and installation to moving image. Her work explores how human bodies connect on a primal haptic level and how we can use them to establish connections that surpass the limits of borders, culture, language, and other such categories of exclusion.
She was appointed as an artist in residence at Haroon Mirza's studio, hrm199, collaborated with Klein at Serpentine Park Nights and has performed regularly with the Research Group AUDINT at national and international events, like Tate Lates and MIRA Festival Barcelona.
Carolin said: "I hope that the Connect ME residency will not only enrich new forms of collaborating and skill-sharing, but also new forms of work. Innovating on alternative modes of communication in a world where the tactile is absent and the collaborator is physically distant, is what drives me towards this residency: Creating a digital experience that can bring a moment of play, connection and escape, available to everyone, close and far away, to establish intriguing synergies between cultures."
Over a four-week residency period, the artist pairs will create new, collaborative works under the guidance of Manal Al Dowayan. The works created will be launched on the Making Marks website at the end of February, the digital home of all artworks created under the program, along with an accompanying events program featuring the artists in conversation. — SG


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