ISEA: the art of keeping up with technology

The annual International Symposium of Electronic Arts will be hosted in the Middle East for the first time next week in Dubai.
Stock Markets and Hemlines by Natalie Olanick, one of the artworks being exhibited at ISEA 2014. Courtesy Natalie Olanick and ISEA
Stock Markets and Hemlines by Natalie Olanick, one of the artworks being exhibited at ISEA 2014. Courtesy Natalie Olanick and ISEA

The UAE’s culture, education structure and rapidly expanding art scene will take centre stage at the 10-day International Symposium on Electronic Art in Dubai starting Thursday.

ISEA is a leading platform for new media and interactive and creative arts and will make its Middle East debut at Dubai’s Zayed University, with international names in the fields of electronic art, science and technology in attendance.

More than 100 local and international artists will take part in exhibitions across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, supplemented with public workshops and panel discussions aimed at sparking future projects and artistic collaborations.

The academic conference

The core of the symposium, whose theme is Location, is a three-day academic conference where more than 200 papers from scholars and leading thinkers will be discussed among an audience of delegates and registered guests.

“ISEA is a connecting port or an umbrella to act in a number of ways,” explains Janet Bellotto, the artistic director of ISEA 2014 and interim dean of the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University, Dubai.

“I hope to highlight what is already going on here in the galleries, the community, the different institutions as well as create lasting relationships with the international artists.”

Monday sees the first day of the academic conference, which takes place over three days at the Zayed University women’s campus. Bellotto will present the overview of the symposium and Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the president of Zayed University and Minister of International Cooperation and Development, will give the inaugural address.


Beginning with an intensive week-long workshop for students from Zayed University, the American University of Dubai and the Technical University of Dresden, which starts before the conference, ISEA has a strong educational element strengthened by various workshops.

“The important thing for us is getting our students involved, because they are the up-and-coming generation of artists and designers and they will need to be equipped with these tools as they enter the future; particularly with Expo 2020 around the corner,” says Bellotto.

Across the weekend, the focus is on the public with workshops in all sorts of disciplines from video gaming, creating digital algorithms through the use of cellphones and researching plant life. They are open to people of all levels of skill and ages, and for the technically minded, Canon and Adobe will be hosting how-to workshops on Photoshop, Lightroom and photography.


Saturday marks the start of the exhibitions programme that takes off in Sharjah’s Maraya Art Park and the American University of Sharjah – both will host group exhibitions of artists who responded to an open call when ISEA 2014 was announced and chosen by an international selection committee.

On Sunday, more exhibitions will open at Dubai’s A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, thejamjar and AUD.

The exhibitions continue with Zayed University students presenting Nomadic Dolls, a show of small figurines, which they sent to other institutions across the region to be decorated and then returned for the exhibition, representative of their culture and their tribal roots.

Also, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood will turn into an open- air gallery with artworks being installed in many of the houses as well as inside XVA Gallery and at Creekside, a new public venue situated nearby.

When the conference is over, the focus shifts once again to the capital, where the Abu Dhabi Art Hub is hosting three artists from the open call in a residency and New York University Abu Dhabi will exhibit a group show titled Artists of Resonance.

Wrapping things up

During the final days of ISEA, a think tank organised by the committee will serve as a conclusion to the event, summing up what has been discussed and looking at how to implement changes at an institutional level.

“We want to bring together all the points from the panel discussions and workshops and look at how we can implement changes at institutional levels,” says Bellotto.

The closing ceremony will take place on November 8 during Quoz Happens, the one-day-street-art festival happening in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, when Bellotto will also make a handover speech to the city of Vancouver, where ISEA 2015 will take place.

This will coincide with a final exhibition opening at the Lobo and Listone gallery in Dubai, the home of Capsule Arts.

“The one thing I have in mind with ISEA is that while I know very well the vibrancy and the talent and creativity coming from the UAE, many people internationally still are not aware of it,” says Bellotto. “I want people to come here and experience it and have conversations about what is possible so that we can create a lasting impact for the future.”

• The 20th International Symposium on Electronic Art will take place between October 30 and November 8 across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. For more information and the full schedule of events, visit

Published: October 27, 2014 04:00 AM


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