• Summary

    In Spring of 2018, The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery opened the first institutional retrospective of the artists and architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti. Throughout their work, the duo explores the state of “refugeeness,” a condition meant to be temporary, but that has become permanent for many populations. The exhibition featured seven installations, three of which were beyond the gallery walls. It recreated five of their signature installations to date: The Concrete Tent, Common Assembly, Ramallah Syndrome, The Book of Exile, and Mujawara / The Tree School, and two new works were commissioned: Al-Madhafah / The Living Room and Refugee Heritage.

    Permanent Temporariness was guest-curated by NYUAD faculty Salwa Mikdadi, who is among the foremost historians of modern art from the Arab world. It was co-curated by Bana Kattan, who was at the time the Curator at The NYUAD Art Gallery. Bana is the newly appointed Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

  • Read the essay

    [Excerpt from the exhibition essay]

    This mid-career retrospective exhibition of works by the artists and architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti covers their research and art produced over the last fifteen years. The curatorial premise for Permanent Temporariness questions the state of ‘refugeeness,’ a condition meant to be temporary, but that can become a permanent state of being. The artists examine temporariness, giving agency to refugees, both Palestinians under occupation and others, through alternative modes of articulating refugeeness at a time when the voice of the refugee is easily drowned in a sea of victimhood and alienation. As a result of political and natural calamities, there are currently over 70 million forcibly displaced people around the world. At the same time, globalization resulted in the movement of large numbers of professionals and a labor force from their native ‘home’ to temporary work locations, a move that subsequently turned into a life of permanent temporariness. This condition in the Gulf countries is referred to by the novelist Deepak Unnikrishnan as ‘Temporary People,’ living in between two homes, one an unattainable dream and another an economic necessity. Living more years away from home than at home imposes conditions and initiates new realities that characterize permanent temporariness. The artists examine this condition, focusing on Palestinian refugees, and on the recent waves of refugees from other nations.

    The artists’ work lies between conceptual speculation and an artistic practice that is based on spatial interventions in art, architecture, discourse, public research, and communal learning. Through research, publication, performance, video, film, photography, and interventions, the artists examine the relation between politics and architecture. Hilal and Petti’s art practice is fundamentally collaborative, as the work in this exhibition testifies. They adopted this approach early in their career, establishing a collaborative residency in 2007, along with Eyal Weizman: the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR), in Beit Sahour, Palestine. Since then hundreds of resident artists, architects and other collaborators have worked on a variety of projects that aim “… to find and utilize cracks and loopholes within existing colonial systems of separation and control [which] include built structures, infrastructure, land ownerships, and legal systems.” The Common Assembly installation in the main gallery is an example of such a project.

    [click to read the full essay in the brochure]


Below are the audio guides to each of the artworks in the exhibition, narrated by the artists.

Refugee Heritage

Common Assembly

Mujawara/The Tree School

Ramallah Syndrome

Al-Madhafah/ The Living Room

The Book of Exile

The Concrete Tent