Erin Meekhof is a designer, artist, and scientist working in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Her designs, experiments, and art pieces all come from a moment of learning — that buzz that happens from understanding something new about the world. This transformative moment is the foundation of what she creates and what she seeks to inspire in her audience. She is currently a student in her final year of New York University Abu Dhabi and will graduate in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Cognitive Science). She finds the most wonder in the overlap of the two contrary disciplines, art and science, and strives to be honest to both processes in all her projects, whether it’s the creation of a brand or two-meter wooden sculptures. Her full portfolio of visual work can be found online at be.net/meekhof.
Abjad is a series of wooden sculptures based on shapes created from research into how the Arabic and Roman alphabets developed through time. Each letter tells the story of a single sound, one phoneme’s visual representation starting as a pictogram, evolving into Phoenician, and splitting into modern Arabic and Roman letters through Etruscan, Aramaic, and Nabatean. The letters of Abjad are artistic timelines that reveal the common root between two superficially disparate languages. The scale and physical engagement with these forms as sculptures demand the viewer to see the familiar as foreign and the foreign as familiar. I want every viewer to undergo a process of discovery through this work, and to be challenged to rethink their own linguistic divisions and assumptions.
As a scientist and an artist, I am constantly learning, and all my art comes out of exploration: of a tool, of a question, of a history, or in this case, of my own linguistics. I was raised on the stark shapes of the Roman alphabet, growing up in the United States, and written Arabic always seemed tantalizingly incomprehensible. When I moved to the UAE to study, the language started to untangle itself. I learned to read right to left and no longer saw Arabic as an exotic puzzle: it was simply another way of communicating. Abjad is a response to myself before living here, to those who see either language as hopelessly foreign, and to those who live in bilingual worlds and want to find out what’s at the bottom of it.