Meditation, a touring art bus and workshops for teenagers – Warehouse421 was not kidding when it announced, eight months ago, that the organisation was thinking holistically and ambitiously about the direction of their cultural programming.
After a series of internal lockdown workshops and general soul-searching, the Abu Dhabi art organisation decided to focus on regional collaborations, grants and mentorship schemes, and local capacity-building overall. These are now the guiding factors behind the exhibitions, workshops and film screenings it has announced for winter.
In February, Warehouse421 will host the first solo exhibition of Ammar Al Attar. Al Attar, who lives in Ajman, is mostly known as a photographer but expands here into performance and video – aptly titling the exhibition Out of Range – on a show that has been produced with The Institute for Emerging Art in Dubai.
They are collaborating, once again, with Colomboscope, the Sri Lanka festival organisation, to host Language is Migrant. The show will include commissions and artworks taken from Colomboscope’s most recent event. The exhibition also includes the results of work supported by the Warehouse421 Project Revival Fund in 2020, another of Warehouse421’s Covid-19-related responses.
Under the direction of Natasha Ginwala, Colomboscope is this year curated by Anushka Rajendran and has a strong presence in the UAE, having collaborated on its current event with Warehouse421 as well as Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai. After a series of online activities, it is, at last, producing a physical event next week in Colombo.
While collaboration has been newly made central to Warehouse421, it has been part of the organisation’s DNA since it launched in 2015. Indeed, Warehouse421 is continuing its partnerships with long-time collaborators Cinema Akil – now on the 12th season of its Arab film programme – and with Gulf Photo Plus, with whom it is conducting its online photography camp for beginners. But the range of the collaborators has grown ambitious, following the paths of its demographics, with Colomboscope, for example, as well as the Beirut organisation afikra, which is using Warehouse421 as its first Abu Dhabi outpost of discussions and talks with Arab cultural practitioners.
The range of activities offered in its workshops has also grown, including a new series tackling mental health.
“As we begin 2022, it is only appropriate that we focus on engaging in self-care and wellness routines,” says Faisal Al Hassan, head of Warehouse421. He says the organisation is offering “a renewed commitment towards healing and self-care through our winter programme, which offers a series of invigorating workshops focused on connecting with the self through sound healing and artwork meditation”.
Other short courses offered by the organisation include candle-making, jewellery-making, dancing, children’s storytelling, tablescaping and dukhoon (incense) making – a variety clearly intended to appeal to a wider general public as much as its known art community.
The team is also looking inter-generationally: some mental health workshops are geared up for adults as well as teenagers, and the organisation has also announced a programme allowing teenagers to gain advice from young creative practitioners.
Gulf Photo Plus' popular Photo Walks are returning, in which photographers collaboratively seek inspiration in the Abu Dhabi landscape, as is the art bus, which organises tours to other art organisations in the Emirates, such as the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Maraya Art Centre – and, of course, back in the end to Warehouse421.
Out of Range and Language is Migrant run from Sunday, February 27 to Sunday, May 8. More information at Warehouse421.