Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages to open in Concrete on 5 March 2018

Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages to open in Concrete on 5 March 2018


13 December 2017


Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages to open in Concrete on 5 March 2018

A partnership between Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited, the exhibition will showcase the works of 10 UAE-based emerging artists

Image (L-R): Guest artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian and Rokni Haerizadeh with Shobha Pia Shamdsani, executive director of UAE Unlimited and Karim Sultan, curator of Ishara. Photo courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited will bring Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages to Concrete in March 2018. The show will run from 5 March to 1 April. Curated by Karim Sultan, the exhibition will feature new works by 10 UAE-based artists, in addition to loaned works by guest artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian. The selected artists for the 2018 edition of UAE Unlimited are Amna Al Dabbagh, Cheb Moha, Chndy, Dina Khorchid, Farah Al Qasimi, Flounder Lee, Nasir Nasrallah, Saba Qizilbash, Salem Al Mansoori, and Shaikha Al Ketbi.

The concept of the exhibition is derived from a broad understanding of the meaning and use of language. In Arabic, Ishara, denotes “sign”—the most basic form of communication, and refers to the linguistic marks, gestures and indications, as well as commonly used signals that transcend language, like those used in traffic or urban spaces. The curatorial process for the exhibition has been thematically informed by the idea of “lingua franca,” which hints at constructed, second or third languages that were used to aid communication between various groups or in situations where communication was difficult.

“In the context of the UAE, with its major port cities, this leads to an intrinsic interest in this mediated form of communication, where numerous languages are assembled together in trade, transportation, and interpersonal relationships. A broader view incorporates body language and infrastructure, where signs create paths but also erect barriers, where appearances or dialects signal the existence of certain publics but preclude others”, says Sultan.

The selection of the artists was based on their ability to create works that dealt with the structure-building involved in language, or a tendency towards works that address the subject of communication. Often this manifests itself in works that simultaneously deal with the technologies of communication (both artificial and otherwise), the construction of new languages, and the translation of memory into works that attempt to communicate.

“These 10 locally-based artists each bring a highly individual practice to the exhibition, realised through media such as video, installation, found objects, and drawing. The incredible range of the exhibition will reflect Concrete’s adaptability and breadth. It is the ideal platform to showcase the work of these artists, to audiences from the UAE and beyond.” says Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue. 


Shobha Pia Shamdsani, Executive Director of UAE Unlimited says, “Since our inception, it has been part of our mandate at UAE Unlimited to support emerging UAE-based artists, to help get them on a regional and international stage, but also to create a culture of mentorship, guidance and peer learning that will provide a lasting impact on the development of their work. The regular reading sessions with the curator and guest artists provide an important opportunity for in-depth mentoring, as for some Ishara will be the first time that they have participated in a curator-led group show.”

The Dubai-based guest artists, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, provide an important role mentoring the commissioned artists and providing insight into their practices, a format that UAE Unlimited has adopted since its inception in 2015. Their exhibition experience is supplemented by their engaged and highly disciplined shared practices, which incorporate painting, sculpture, a variety of found and assembled media, video, and more. The cultural, and scholarly references they often cite will lend a unique literary asset to the selected artists. The mentorship extends to the curator as well; Sharjah-based curator, Laura Metzler, is senior curatorial advisor on the exhibition.

With the aim of supporting UAE-based emerging artists, not only in growing their practice, but in bringing them to the attention of a global audience, UAE Unlimited has established a practice of selecting emerging contemporary artists for its annual exhibitions. The artists produce work under the guidance of guest artists, creating a culture of mentorship within the arts community and specifically in the exhibition.




Press Contacts:

All media enquiries

Charlotte York, Alserkal Avenue

Tel: +971 56 418 7999 

Editor’s Notes:

About Alserkal Avenue

Established in 2007, Alserkal Avenue is the region’s foremost contemporary arts and culture neighbourhood. Home to 16 contemporary art galleries and over 40 creative businesses, Alserkal Avenue has cultivating a vibrant community of visual and performing arts organisations, designers, and artisanal spaces, becoming an essential platform for the development of art and culture in the United Arab Emirates.

In March 2017, Alserkal Avenue opened Concrete, the UAE’s first building to be completed by Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Concrete provides a flexible, multipurpose venue for international arts and culture initiatives ranging from performances, to exhibitions, lectures and various other public events.

At the intersection of art, culture and commerce, Alserkal Avenue is more than just a neighbourhood, it is the driving force that brings the creative community of Dubai together. The Avenue runs a regular community programme of talks, tours, road trips and workshops.  

More info: |
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: #AlserkalAvenue, @Alserkal Avenue


About Alserkal Programming

Alserkal Programming is a platform for exhibitions, public art commissions, performances, films, talks and workshops that critically and creatively investigate themes pertinent to the region's arts community. Together, these programmes provide a platform to support the development of new ideas, open dialogue and collaboration across disciplines. The annual programme is thematically developed to focus on a particular issue, bringing artists and professionals from different fields together to examine a concept through wide-ranging means and perspectives.

More info:

About UAE Unlimited

Established in 2015, UAE Unlimited is an Abu Dhabi-based satellite platform supported by H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, who is a prominent patron and collector of the arts.

UAE Unlimited supports emerging Emirati and UAE-based artists by producing and promoting their works through strategic collaborations with art and culture organisations across the country. The initiative thrives on creating opportunities for both young and emerging UAE-based talent, thereby contributing to the overall cultural production in the UAE.

Recognising the importance of supporting and allowing young and emerging artists and curators to develop their skills, UAE Unlimited selects senior advisors who serve as mentors, not only for the artists but also for the curator. Artists and curators are encouraged to experiment and develop new practices, processes and techniques.

Employing this approach, UAE Unlimited has hosted a major annual exhibition every year since its founding, showcasing newly commissioned artworks based on selected themes. Recent exhibitions include "Al Haraka Baraka" with Maraya Art Centre Sharjah in 2016 with Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mansoori as guest artist, followed by "Bayn" with Warehouse421 Abu Dhabi in 2017 with acclaimed artist Manal Al Dowayan.

Shobha Pia Shamdsani is the Executive Director of UAE Unlimited; she is also the Art Adviser & Director of the Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Collection of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan.

Facebook, Instagram: @uaeunlimited

About Concrete

A multi-disciplinary space conceptualised by Alserkal Avenue, Concrete is the first building in the UAE to be completed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas. Located in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, Concrete is an adaptable venue whose ability to metamorphose to bring creative visions to life makes it suitable for international, museum-grade exhibitions as well as events across art, design, fashion and the performing arts.

Facebook, Instagram: #Concrete



His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan

His Highness Sheikh Zayed, (b. 1988) is the grandson of the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan. He graduated from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK, receiving his Master of Arts with Honours in Middle East Studies and Modern History. With a keen interest, and a sense of duty to enhance the civic life of his country, Sheikh Zayed has sought to develop the artistic and creative voices of emerging generations, and support their efforts to enrich the cultural life of the UAE.

With this ideal in mind, HH Sheikh Zayed has garnered his talents and interests to become, at 29, one of the youngest, and most prominent patrons of the arts in the UAE. He is a keen collector of Middle Eastern Art, both Modern & Contemporary, and including works from India, Iran & Turkey. In 2015, he established UAE Unlimited (formerly UAE Unlimited Arab Exploration), an open exhibition platform committed to the promotion of his country’s creative and artistic wellspring; within the UAE and internationally. UAE Unlimited is now in its third year of operation and has successfully begun its mission to positively impact the life and career of emerging artists. HH Sheikh Zayed is a Patron of the Centre Pompidou & the British Museum, and is on their Middle Eastern Acquisition Committees. He is also a Patron of the Sharjah Art Foundation and Honorary Patron of Art Dubai. Sheikh Zayed and UAE Unlimited have generously donated artworks from prominent UAE artists including Mohammed Kazem, Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mansoori and Ammar Al Attar to the Centre Pompidou and the British Museum.

HH Sheikh Zayed also serves on the Board of the Make A Wish Foundation-UAE Chapter and is Chairman of the Sultan bin Khalifa al Nahyan Humanitarian and Scientific Foundation, and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sultan bin Khalifa Thalassemia Award.


Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal

Founder of Alserkal Avenue, Alserkal Programming and Alserkal Residency, and patron of the arts 

Abdelmonem is the driving force behind Alserkal Avenue, a cultural destination that houses the most prominent contemporary art galleries in the region. In 2015, he launched Alserkal Programming, the not-for-profit arm of Alserkal Avenue, which supports locally-based and international artists through commissions and public programmes. As a natural extension of the programming arm, Abdelmonem established Alserkal Residency in early 2017. The Residency is designed to give artists, writers, curators, and researchers the opportunity to critically reflect on and experiment with their practice within the context of Dubai. 

Concrete opened in Alserkal Avenue in 2017, commissioned by Abdelmonem Alserkal and designed to be a space for alternative programmes and museum-grade exhibitions. Concrete is the first building to be completed in the UAE by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which was founded by Pritzker Prize-winner Rem Koolhaas.

Featured in Surface magazine's 2016 Power 100, Abdelmonem serves on numerous boards of prestigious art institutions around the world, including the British Museum's Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art Acquisition Group; the Tate's Middle East and North Africa Acquisition Committee; and the Guggenheim's Middle Eastern Circle. Abdelmonem and the Alserkal family have long been supporters of the arts and have been awarded the Patron of the Arts award twice, in 2012 and 2013, by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.


Vilma Jurkute

With a degree in International Business from Grenoble Graduate School of Business, Vilma has spent the last decade developing creative industries across New York, Chicago, London and Dubai. She joined Alserkal Avenue in 2011 and in her time with the organisation, she has been instrumental in its evolution and responsible for overseeing the Avenue’s physical expansion in 2015 as well as the inauguration of Concrete in 2017.

Vilma also launched Alserkal Programming in 2015, and Alserkal Residency in 2017, affirming the organisation’s commitment to the development of arts and culture in the region. She has been a vocal supporter of growing a creative economy, and a strong advocate for its importance in social development and identity within the MENASA region. Vilma serves on the advisory boards of the Global Cultural Districts Network and the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation. Vilma is currently pursuing an Executive MSc in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford, UK.

Shobha Pia Shamdsani

Art Advisor to HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and Executive Director of UAE Unlimited since its inception in 2015, Shobha Pia Shamdsani has brought three successful UAE Unlimited exhibitions to life through working closely with the curator and the exhibition teams.


Raised in the UK, Shamdsani’s early studies guided her toward a career in interior design and art advisory. Shamdsani has handled prestigious large-scale complex interior design projects in Abu Dhabi, creating exclusive designs from artistic wall treatments to custom joinery and luxurious furnishings for her clients. She has had extensive experience working with artisan painters, craftsmen, and engineers in all aspects of interior design.


As the art advisor to HH Sheikh Zayed since 2011, Shamdsani has complete management responsibility for all aspects of his private collection. In this collaboration with the Chairman, she has built a collection of Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art, which includes Turkish, Iranian and Indian art works.  She has, in this capacity, represented HH Sheikh Zayed at the acquisition meetings of the Centre Pompidou & the British Museum. Shamdsani is a Patron of Sharjah Biennale 2017 and Art Dubai, and is on the Alserkal Avenue Programming Committee.


Shamdsani has travelled widely, from a childhood in Singapore, to living and working in London and Abu Dhabi and credits these diverse cultural experiences for her unique appreciation of art.



Karim Sultan

Karim Sultan is the director of Barjeel Art Foundation. He has recently curated a number of exhibitions such as The Sea Suspended at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Short Century (co-curated with Suheyla Takesh) at the Sharjah Art Museum, as well as a major exhibition of modern and contemporary Arab works at Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (co-curated with Philippe van Cauteren of SMAK), and Between two rounds of fire, the exile of the sea at the American University Museum in Washington, D.C. Previously, he has been a contributing editor at Kalimat Magazine, and has worked with a number of arts organisations and initiatives in the Gulf region since 2012. His interests are focused around developing fluency with art histories and contemporary approaches to modernism in the Arab region. In addition, Karim is also a practicing and performing artist who works with sound, music, photography, video and installation.


Laura Metzler

Laura Metzler is the curator at Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah. She received her MA from the American University of Beirut and her BA from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to holding this position she was the Associate Director at Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and The Third Line in Dubai. Recent projects include Sadik Al Fraji's Once Upon a Time: Hadiqat Al Umma, Collectivity: Objects and Associations in the UAE Art World and the launch of the Maraya Project Space. She has also worked on projects including exhibitions of artists such as Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Hayv Kahraman, Hassan Hajjaj, Rayyane Tabet, Haig Aivazian, Etel Adnan, Slavs and Tatars, and Monira Al Solh among others. 


Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian


Ramin Haerizadeh (born 1975, Tehran), Rokni Haerizadeh (born 1978, Tehran) and Hesam Rahmanian (born 1980, Knoxville) have lived and worked together in Dubai since 2009. They work independently and together propagating a form of collaboration that doesn’t suppress individualism. The seeds of their language were sown as early as 1999 in Iran. Their practice offers up a novel redefinition of the collective, as theirs is constantly growing and contracting to incorporate friends, writers, and artists at large. It entails the use of both low and high art references, and freely embraces ‘what is considered marginal, wasted, wrong, messed up, useless, and taken for granted’. Their individual practices differ stylistically while political and social commentary become inherently subversive in a common reflection. The exhibitions they conceive are as much insights into their daily practice which they designate as the ritual of living and working together.


Their immersive and multimedia installations build upon their perception of life as a theatre while also making their process visible. Generally, their proposals begin with the ‘creatures’ that the three artists become, both physically and mentally, and whose very beings are the roles that are eventually played. Placing emphasis on the importance of ‘reporting on our time’, they wish to bring attention to the urgencies of the present moment while opening up questions over a spectrum of subjects such as views on art and culture, gender fluidity, and power mechanisms. ‘The conglomeration of things actually asks us to look at what is in front of us’ comment the artists, demanding time for contemplation. The artists seek to encourage the viewer to recognise the reality of interdependency and the value of solidarity with others. Therefore, they create a sense of alienation or estrangement from reality with depersonalised individual subjects (creatures) and inhomogeneous crafted objects. In doing so, they aim to exorcise the sentimentalism, resulting in an emotional distance to elicit from the viewer astonishment rather than empathy and ultimately allowing for critical analysis.


Recipients of the Han Nefkens Foundation/MACBA Award, the artists will stage a solo exhibition at the MACBA in Barcelona in October 2017. Recent solo exhibitions include The Birthday Party (2015) at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Slice A Slanted Arc Into Dry Paper Sky at the Zurich Kunsthalle (2015), Those Who Love Spiders, and Let Them Sleep in Their Hair at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen (2015) and Another Happy Day (2017) at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. They also participated in The Restless Earth (2017) for the Milan Triennale in association with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and contributed to the National Pavilion of the UAE at the 57th Venice Biennale's catalogue as an extended site of the exhibition. They took part in the Liverpool Biennale (2016), and the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Gallery in Brisbane (2015).


A facsimile of their artist book Her Majesty? was published by Editions Patrick Frey in 2016 and a monograph of their work Ramin Haerizadeh Rokni Haerizadeh Hesam Rahmanian was published by Mousse Publishing in 2015.