Waiting for the Future: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi launches digital talks programme

Continuing its online initiatives, the museum will host a series of sessions by notable artists

Following the launch of its virtual programme In the Studio in July, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi continues its online initiatives with Waiting for the Future, a series of digital talks with renowned artists.

The programme’s sessions were developed as a bridge between artists and audiences, opening up ways in which visitors can reflect and connect with art despite the pandemic. In them, the museum’s curators will have in-depth discussions with artists whose works are part of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection.

Featured names include Japanese artist Mariko Mori, visual artist YZ Kami and performance artists Selma and Sofiane Ouissi, all of whom are tied together by practices that investigate notions of transcendence and spirituality.

“Waiting for the Future is a unique programme that offers moments of reflection, connection and togetherness during a time of change and uncertainty,” said Maisa Al Qassimi, senior project manager of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, in a statement.

“These sessions are a valuable addition to our public programming offering, which aims to both introduce engaging and poetic art from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi permanent collection to the public. Anyone with an interest in the arts will certainly enjoy and benefit from what are sure to be inspiring conversations and performances.”

Mori, whose artistic career began in the 1990s, works across video, photography, sculpture and installation. She amalgamates the imagery of pop culture, technology, religion and animation in her works.

Speaking with Alexandra Munroe, director of curatorial affairs at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, on Tuesday, October 13, Mori described the ideas and process behind her 1996 series Esoteric Cosmos, fantastical large-scale photographs that feature the artist herself. Dressed in traditional and elaborate wear, she appears in various realistic landscapes seemingly inhabited with anime-style characters.

Mori said each photograph in the series represents the natural elements – wind, fire, water and earth. The idea borrows from the mandala, a geometric spiritual symbol used in eastern religions.

Her image Pure Land, which is part of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's collection, features Mori afloat above a tranquil landscape surrounded by animated creatures. The image draws from Buddhist art while infusing it with Japanese pop culture references.

Through the works, Mori said that she wanted to explore “the power of nature”, adding “I wanted to physically experience the mind of a bodhisattva ... I wanted to produce something that was connected to the future. I wanted to make this idea alive, not just left behind in history."

On Tuesday, October 20, curator Sasha Kalter-Wasserman, will speak to Iranian-American artist Y Z Kami about his artistic approach and his work Endless Prayers XIII (2008), an intricate geometric collage on linen. The piece shows a large concentric circle comprised of cut-up printed prayers. Kami will also detail the sacred texts, religious architecture and Sufi practices that have influenced his work.

The programme will end with an online performance by the Ouissi siblings on Tuesday, November 24. The two live and work between Tunis and Paris. Their performance Wejdan will explore ideas of identity and community.

The talks and performance will be available on Abu Dhabi Culture's YouTube Channel.