KAUST Art Program | Donna Marcus, Dennis Nona, Oliver van den Berg

14 July, 2010

PROJECT KAUST International Art Program
CLIENT KAUST | Aramco International
LOCATION Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
ARTISTS Carsten Höller, Sopheap Pich, Donna Marcus, Nja Madhaoui, Oliver van den Berg, Dennis Nona, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Subodh Kerkar,  Dalziel & Scullion, Richard Deacon, Erwin Redl, Fiona Foley, Simeon  Nelson, David Trubridge, Jason Bruges
ARCHITECT HOK Planning Group
ART CONSULTANT Urban Art Projects
CURATORIAL Renai Grace, Alison Kubler, Jodie Cox
DESIGN UAP Studio, Amanda Harris, Elishia Whitchurch
ENGINEER Robert Bird Group
LIGHTING Norman Disney & Young
YEAR 2009

KAUST ART is an extensive program of artwork commissions that celebrate King Abdullah University’s international platform of collaboration and exchange. Globally over 120 artists were shortlisted for the project, including artists from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Tunisia, the United States, Cambodia, Spain, Iraq, Egypt, Germany and India. 15 artists – the acclaimed Richard Deacon, Erwin Redl, Carsten Höller and Dennis Nona among them – were briefed to develop concepts for specific sites. They were asked to draw inspiration from KAUST’s unique geography, science and technology-based research, language, text, regional histories and traditions.

Three of the commissions realised are shown here:

ARTIST Donna Marcus
ARTWORK Delphinus

KAUST has taken an innovative interdisciplinary approach to research and this is echoed in the influences at the heart of Donna Marcus’ work, Delphinus, which overlaps aesthetics and ideas of the microscopic, macroscopic, the organic, the industrial and the domestic.

Marcus’ sculptural practice of utilising distinctly mundane everyday domestic objects creates an aura of intimacy that stems from nostalgic memory and familiarity with in this case, the humble lemon squeezer. These are sculptures deeply informed by science, astronomy and philosophy that look to the past, both recent and ancient, at the same time they speak of the universal human condition and shared life experiences. Marcus’ sculptures appeal to a broad audience: they are both humble and profound in spirit.

Marcus’ internally lit sculptures are positioned to match the Delphinus constellation documented by astronomer As-Sufi (Azophi) over 1000 years ago, and will guide pedestrians through the Seacourt area.

ARTIST Dennis Nona
ARTWORK Two Brothers

Torres Strait Islanders’ navigational skills and stellar knowledge were exceptional and paralleled those of the ancient Islamic world’s mariners and astronomers. They are described as having one foot on land and one in the sea. Both Torres Strait Island and Arabian cultures boast a seafaring tradition that encompassed both trading and fishing. The canoes and sails employed by the Torres Strait Islanders were not unlike those of the Arab dhow.

Dennis Nona developed “Two Brothers” based on a traditional legend from his home island of Badu. The 7-metre-long cast bronze canoe is supported by 6 paddles, raising it 5 metres above the ground. The patterning and position of two mother-of-pearl stars seen on the sides of the canoe’s hull reflect the strong wind (Sagerr) and soft wind (Nagai).

The placement of the artist’s canoe in the Sailing Club precinct is poetic. Nona’s evocative and spiritual work reminds us of a simpler existence and traditional ways of living.  Most importantly, Nona’s work reminds us of the importance of celebrating the ancient in relation to the contemporary and acknowledging the contribution of indigenous cultures to humanity.

ARTIST Oliver van den Berg
ARTWORK Star Projector

Setting the tone for the ground floor of KAUST’s research lab, Oliver van den Berg has created Star Projector. Based upon an actual apparatus which was used for projecting an accurate image of the night sky in large planetariums, the 5.7m steel and aluminium structure has all of the appearance of futuristic technology without the function. Reduced to pure form, it stands to reflect something of the nature of the human beings who created it.

Oliver van den Berg’s work is an ambitious and wonderful folly. A romantic work, it speaks to the adventurer and dreamer inside each of us, and our capacity to suspend our disbelief and imagine the unimaginable. A ‘blind’ telescope, it operates as a metaphor for sight and seeing as believing in an age of hyper reality.

Star Projector speaks of humanity’s shared desire for knowledge and the unknowable, and acknowledges the legacy of Arabic scholars and scientists in the fields of astronomy and science.

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