Presented in collaboration with the NYUAD Institute: Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, and commentator on Arab affairs will join Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal and Ibrahim Al Qasimi from Emirates Mission to Mars, and Ahlam Al Qasim, a senior in physics at NYUAD, in a discussion, in Arabic, about the philosophical and creative drive behind humankind’s desire to travel into space. This conversation explores the art and technology of the NYUAD Art Gallery exhibition Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents in the context of the UAE and the Emirates Mission to Mars. The co-curators Professor Scott Fitzgerald and Gallery Curator Bana Kattan describe the exhibition as “a show that exposes technology and our relationships with it.”

This panel will be in Arabic with English simultaneous interpretation

Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-American artist and an Associate Arts Professor at Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. He holds a BFA from the University of New Mexico and received his MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Bilal’s work is informed by “simultaneously existing in two worlds: his home in the ‘comfort zone’ of the U.S. and his consciousness of the ‘conflict zone’ in Iraq.” His installations are performative and interactive, often using his own body as his medium, and aim to provoke dialogue about international politics as well as internal dynamics. In his performance piece Domestic Tension (2007), he invited internet patrons to shoot at him with a remotely controlled paintball gun during a month-long stay at the FlatFile Galleries in Chicago.

Bilal has had solo shows at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor; Driscoll Babcock Galleries, New York; Linfield Gallery, Oregon; Doris McCarthy Gallery, Toronto; David Winton Bell Gallery, Rhode Island; Maraya Art Park, Sharjah; Aksioma Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana.

Bilal was named 2008’s Artist of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, and his recent work, Canto III, was premiered in a solo booth at the New York Armory Show and subsequently exhibited in the 2015 Venice Biennale. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; and MATHAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar; amongst others.

Ibrahim Al Qasimi leads the education and media outreach programme at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, as well as working with universities and high schools to develop space research initiatives such as the high school CanSat and the Nayif-1 CubeSat mission developed in collaboration with the American University of Sharjah.

Ibrahim started his career at MBRSC, joining the Space Program Department as the first non-engineer. He worked as a representative of international affairs and was in charge of managing MBRSC’s international agreements and collaborations. Ibrahim then moved to the Project Management Office where he was assigned as project manager of the high school satellite initiative, CanSat.

In 2014, Ibrahim was assigned as the Manager of Strategic Research at MBRSC. He was also assigned as the Project Manager of the UAE’s first CubeSat mission Nayif-1

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a columnist on Arab affairs and an MIT Media Labs Director’s Fellow based in Sharjah, UAE. Rising in prominence during the Arab Spring, Sultan’s tweets became a major news source, and Time magazine listed him in the 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011. In 2014, Arabian Business placed Sultan in its list of World’s 100 Most Powerful Arabs under the Thinkers category.

Sultan is also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative established to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by providing a prominent and publicly accessible art collection in the UAE.

Ahlam Al Qasim is a senior who studies at NYUAD. After pursuing both arts and science in high school, she majored in physics for her degree. She is also taking minors in applied mathematics and art history to broaden her perspectives and make use of the liberal arts education that NYUAD provides. Among many things, Ahlam has a keen interest in fine arts and is always looking for ways to bridge the gap between the arts and sciences, a gap which she believes should be non-existent. She hopes to achieve a more liberal approach in terms of the education system currently in place within her society, such that creativity is used as a useful tool in science rather than something that is deemed “irrelevant” or “hindering” to scientific knowledge. Using her past experiences at the Italian Space Agency, Yahsat and Gran Sasso’s Underground Physics Laboratory, Ahlam hopes to be able to contribute significantly to the UAE’s space program and work in that field in the near future.

Maryam Al Hammadi is a third year student at NYUAD. “I have always been interested in the intersection of the sciences with the arts, particularly reading and creative writing. During my time at NYUAD I had been encouraged, both by my high school background in science and the multi-disciplinary education of this institution, to pursue a degree in physics. I hope to create a future for myself in the growing space industry in the UAE whilst also fostering my creative side. As a person who spent her childhood in the realms of fiction, I greatly recognize the role of imagination in stimulating a driven curiosity and passion in the sciences. Interested in incorporating sustainability in space travel as well as in education, I am highly appreciative of NYUAD’s role in allowing me to combine my interests. I spend my free time writing – and sometimes performing – poetry and fiction.”

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION: Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents