Lisa Adams and the Art of More than Making Do, by James Scarborough
A Conversation with Fernanda Brenner, Co-Curator, Residents Programme, 2019 Art Dubai, by James Scarborough

A Conversation with Fawz Kabra, Co-Director, Global Art Forum, 2019 Art Dubai, by James Scarborough

Established in 2007, Art Dubai is the world’s leading platform for Contemporary and Modern art from the Middle East - North Africa - South Asia (MENASA) region, aka the Global South. This 13th iteration of the fair will feature 500 artists from around the world represented by 90 galleries in 40 countries. Its Artistic Director is Pablo del Val. Featuring Global Arts Forum, the Residents Program, and Campus Art Dubai, programming will include talks, tours, workshops, special performances and an after-dark music program. The Fair runs from March 20 - 23.

Global Art Forum is Art Dubai’s transdisciplinary arts conference. It was organized by Commissioner Shumon Basar. Editor and writer Victoria Camblin, and curator and writer Fawz Kabra serve as Co-Directors. The Forum is supported by the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy in the UAE. The Forum runs March 20 and 21.

Convening to address the theme School is a factory?, this year’s Forum will feature curators, critics, educationalists, and entrepreneurs from around the world. Topics to be covered include:

  1. What should education prioritize in the coming decade?
  2. How should humans be taught in the age of accelerated mechanization?
  3. Is the notion of ‘learning for life’ just an opportunistic tagline?
  4. Will higher education escape the ghetto of elitism?
  5. Do past experiments in education have something to teach today?
  6. Will we need humans to teach humans anymore, anyway?

Below is an interview with Fawz Kabra, one of the Forum’s Co-Directors. She is a curator and writer. She has organized exhibitions and symposia at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York; The Palestinian Museum, Birzeit; BRIC, Brooklyn; Art Dubai Projects; and The Armory Show, New York. She was Assistant Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (2014-2016). She edited “No to the Invasion/Breakdowns and Side Effects” (CCS Bard/Barjeel 2017), a reader and exhibition catalog addressing issues of body and politics in the Arab context post-1990. Her writing has been published in Art Papers, Ocula, Canvas, Guernica and Ibraaz.

(Follow the links for other 2019 Art Dubai interviews. Fernanda Brenner, Co-Curator, Residents Programme. Daniah Al Saleh, winner of the 2nd Edition of the Ithra Art Prize. Adeela Suleman, Bawwaba artist. And Reena Lath, Co-Founder, Akar Prakar Gallery

JS: What conditions prompted this year’s theme, School is a Factory?(?)

FK: This year, Shumon Basar, commissioner of Global Art Forum invited me and Victoria Camblin as Co-Directors. It follows on last year’s theme, which was titled I AM NOT A ROBOT, and through the two days of talks we will delve into the subject of education, recognizing that we are living in the age of automation. We want to begin by asking questions. Education can mean many things and we have organised the programme to consider as much as possible within the wide range of ideas around what education is, can be, where it comes from, and where it is headed.

JS: Though it’s held under the auspices of an International art fair, it doesn’t just refer to arts education, right?

FK: Global Art Forum is a transdisciplinary conference, and the intention is to create a network of thought that comes from different disciplines, interests and concerns. This is reflected in our programme, which includes educators, curators, artists, entrepreneurs, writers and researchers whose working methods also converge different disciplines. We have come to find that education is a personal subject to everyone, as an experience but also its consequences. We want to consider all types of education, spaces for it, and ways of engaging with it. Education can happen in different settings and conditions. We are looking forward to seeing how it comes together and unfolds over the two days.

JS: Having said that, what role can art play in education? Not just in terms of culture but in a broader, more encompassing sense of education.

FK: Many artists working today have already intervened, influenced and remodeled the way education, learning, and school can be considered and used. For example, artists and educators Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas’s session titled Swamp is a School? will deliver a presentation that utilizes the swamp as a metaphor for learning. They ask, “How can the swamp, as a locus of imagination, possibility, and invisible symbiosis between life forms and between humanity and its constructions, foster our thinking today, in order to serve a future of possibility?.”

JS: Accounting for different levels of education - primary, high school, college, post graduate - would you please define school as it relates to this year’s Forum? A place to study the liberal arts? STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics)?

FK: Because of the nature of the Forum, we are considering the term very openly. We ask if the idea of the school continues even after formal education, with sessions that include Anna and Chris Batchelder of Bon Education, Rohan Roberts the Innovation Leader of GEMS Education who will speak about AI’s impact on science and art education, while Artist Cécile B. Evans and Co-Founder of Mirai Christine Nasserghodsi join in a discussion about the schooling of machines. The programme is inclusive of different disciplines and consequently the term school also takes on different meanings and forms.


Fawz Kabra