Athr Gallery At The Armory Show, New York City

The Armory, NY

Booth 631 MENA, Focus

New York City, USA


Complex systems of communication are deeply entrenched in human culture. Language, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, has many social and cultural behaviours – governing and regulating group identity, social stratification, as well as social grooming, entertainment, religious and political control. There are in this way, inherent possibilities in the relationship between language and art, particularly when considering art’s material qualities – visual, aural and beyond. The philosophy of language and its societal role has been argued since Gorgias and Plato in Ancient Greece – the question of whether its fundamental purpose is to represent experience, emotion or logical thought is a continued source of inquiry. Language – as it appears in contemporary art – questions innate properties of productivity, recursivity, and displacement.


Taking visual art's ongoing engagement – and entanglement – with language as its departure, the proposed presentation acknowledges language’s labyrinthine qualities, its endless possible permutations and considers distinctive manifestations of language in film and popular media. Within each work, language is denied its interpretive or explicatory function, narratives are outlined then refuted, nostalgic associations are savored and then curbed. The works embrace language's more permeable state: its elasticity, its penchant for questions, misinterpretation, subtexts and double meanings. Exploring language's ability to prompt empathy, the works are emotive and occasionally melancholic, collectively they embrace questions of politics, identity, idealism, and alienation. Prevailing throughout is a nagging sense of inevitability that reflects upon - and perhaps even amplifies - the uncertain future of Saudi’s and the region’s social landscape.


The artists Ayman Yossri Daydban, Mahdi Al Jeraibi, Bakr Shaykhoon and Ahmed Mater use the opportunity language affords to move freely between disciplines – exploring film, sculpture, artefact and found matter – experimenting with language, they liberate it from the page and from its systematic and descriptive duties and transport it to more mutable territories. The works selected for Armory 2015 more specifically take ‘language as artifact’ as a shared premise and approach. The pieces look towards underlying messaging, communicating to a present and future, they rely on the idiosyncratic use of language in recent history and pop culture. They address language as a remnant, residual evidence of experience and of defining cultural threads. For the works selected, the letter, the word and the phrase are seen and experienced as well as read. Language that was once common-place and used across a variety of popular media in Saudi Arabia in the 70s and 80s, when combined with symbolic objects, becomes a trigger to a retrospective understanding of collective experiences and the parameters of social conditioning within Saudi society. Through these works, each artist explores a haunting, a capturing of defining moments in their own more subjective recollections.