Common Room: Dubai's Alserkal launches new space for research and gatherings

The space will open on September 22 with a series of talks from researchers in the UAE

Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz will open Common Room, an interdisciplinary space for research, writing and group study. Photo: Alserkal Avenue
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With the goal of creating more meeting points for artists and thinkers in the UAE, Alserkal Arts Foundation is launching Common Room, an interdisciplinary space intended for research, writing and group study.

Common Room will be located at Alserkal Avenue's Warehouse 51, formerly part of the Alserkal Arts Foundation’s studios for its residency programme.

The foundation noted the potential for the space to become “an environment conducive to new conversations, enabling the cross-pollination of ideas between students, academics and cultural practitioners".

On Wednesday, as part of Alserkal Lates, the Common Room will be introduced to the public via a series of 30-minute presentations from local researchers and academics about their ongoing projects.

Presentations will begin at 6pm with Athoub Albusaily, whose research project questions the perception of the desert as a “waste land” and the connotations that go with this label, including assumptions of harshness, hostility and survival within the environment.

In her work, the Kuwaiti artist, researcher and art historian, who lives in Dubai, examines the ideas of borders, as well as the desert environment of her home country, often imbibing irony and visual metaphor. She has exhibited at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi and The Hub gallery in Kuwait.

Also presenting is cultural anthropologist Nidhi Mahajan, whose project Of Mobilities and Moorings: A View from the Dhow looks at the dhow as a symbol of transregionalism in the Indian Ocean. In a more specific local context, the dhow has also been used to represent pre-oil livelihoods in the UAE.

Mahajan’s research shows that outside of its use as a nostalgic symbol, the dhow is still used in trading across South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa.

Her project is part of a larger body of research, including a book titled Moorings: The Dhow Trade, States and Capital Across the Indian Ocean, based on a decade of archival and ethnographic research.

Finally, May Al-Dabbagh, an assistant professor at New York University Abu Dhabi, will discuss The Body Archive, her research on teaching gender and globalisation in the Gulf.

Using a combination of social psychology, public policy and postcolonial feminist lenses, Al Dabbagh studies the relationship between gender and work in the region. Her current book project, The Messy Middle, covers migrants and their experiences of motherhood, work and belonging, particularly within a global emergent city.

Common Room is intended to be a permanent space at Alserkal Avenue and will continue its programming throughout the year.

More information is at

Updated: September 22, 2021, 3:35 AM