Blurring the Boundaries

17 December 2019Alserkal Avenue
Blurring the Boundaries


Is this tomorrow? Five pairings of artists and architects challenge the question through experiential installations that offer speculative visions of the future in the exhibition Is This Tomorrow? Whitechapel Gallery curator Lydia Yee takes us on a journey through the works


The interdisciplinary installations, environments, and pavilions by Amalia Pica and 6a, Cao Fei and mono office, Mariana Castillo Deball and Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum Architects, and Hardeep Pandhal and APPARATA reveal the expansive potential of collaboration between art and architecture. Is This Tomorrow?, a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London, was held in and around Concrete, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture-designed building shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, from 6-23 November 2019.


Is This Tomorrow? was first shown at Whitechapel Gallery, London from 14 February – 12 May 2019. For the Dubai iteration of the exhibition, five pairings of international artists and architects investigated universal topics including borders, privacy, living space, and our relationship with technology. Visual artist Rana Begum (Bangladesh) and architect Marina Tabassum (Bangladesh) collaborated on a new iteration of Phoenix Will Rise, originally presented at Whitechapel, ‘focused on hope’ that was created specifically for The Yard, Alserkal Avenue.


6a architects (UK) collaborated with artist Amalia Pica (Argentina) to explore the way architecture proscribes our relationship with animals through a maze-like environment made of an enclosure, blurring the boundaries between human and animal. Exploring another relationship, the one between people and technology, mono office (China) and Cao Fei (China) conceived a prototype for a machine that dispenses objects and emotions to represent and imagine possible futures. Mariana Castillo Deball’s (Mexico) sculptural work relating to the Mesoamerican calendar, Tonalpohualli, was brought together with Tatiana Bilbao’s (Mexico) architectural exploration of the human need to be isolated—yet communally connected. Hardeep Pandhal (UK) and APPARATA (UK) studied what happens to architecture when political systems collapse, or become outdated.


Is This Tomorrow? is based on the seminal exhibition This is Tomorrow, which took place at Whitechapel Gallery in 1956. Envisioned by architect and critic Theo Crosby, the exhibition brought 38 artists and architects together into 12 groups, including Eduardo Paolozzi, Erno Goldfinger, Richard Hamilton, James Stirling and Alison and Peter Smithson, and is now widely considered a watershed of post-war British Art. Is This Tomorrow? expands on the vision of the original exhibition by showcasing the works of international practitioners, all of whom were born after the original exhibition took place.


The Dubai iteration of Is This Tomorrow? is a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London. The exhibition is co-commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, London and MAAT, Lisbon.

 Lydia Yee


β€˜Is this tomorrow?’ is an open-ended question. Rather than trying to propose solutions, the intention behind these projects was to raise questions. -Lydia Yee