Trans-Indian Ocean Artists Exchange project



Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim is a pioneering Emirati artist. Born in Khorfakkan, UAE, his work has been exhibited across the world, including in Sharjah, Venice, Bonn, Havana, Cairo and Moscow.

Mohammed Kazem‘s practice includes various media, including painting, video and installation. His work has been shown in Venice, Singapore, Dubai, and Beijing. Kazem was also co-curator of the 2007 Sharjah Biennial.

Mo Reda is a Dutch artist and curator. Shows he has curated include ‘Alwan 338’ (2012) in Bahrain, ‘Per/Form’ (2014) in Kuwait, a collateral project at the Jogja Biennale (2015), and the Santa Cruz de La Sierra Biennale (2016).

Project Objectives

The aim of this project is to facilitate artistic and cultural exchange between Kerala and the Gulf to stimulate artistic and knowledge exchange between both regions.

This project builds on the idea of existing historical forms of exchange between the two regions, while mainly focusing on exploring the possibilities – and perhaps the non-possibilities – of developing new forms of exchange and cohesion in the regions based on contemporary art and culture in the current state of affairs.


Project Urgency and Background

The urgency of this project is in the actual artistic cultural exchange that is yet to fully take place between regional institutions based on Inter- / Trans- Asian and Middle Eastern artistic and institutional exchange.

Aside from the historically significant exchange in customs, traditions, language, and goods between the regions, contemporary artistic and cultural exchange is stimulated in both groups of artists from both regions. Such an exchange researches, investigates, and invests in cultural and knowledge transfer as a natural form of curiosity in the nearby and adjacent communities and their artistic developments/explorations as a realistic option of an alternate stream: an alternate to the commercial mainstreams of contemporary art that intellectually finds its root in a far-away continent which may or may not take into account that the world is a single reality consisting of simultaneous explorations based on different contents, backgrounds, histories, and rhythms.

Ultimately, this project has a reach beyond the idea of the commonly assumed and accepted singular understanding of expression in contemporary art that finds it roots in Eurocentric traditions of breaking with the traditions of visual language while developing new forms for visual communication.

Such a root also, in a problematic sense, influences how art forms of the regions develop the main value and translate to how regional art is perceived, evaluated, and value-judged. Nor is the idea of this exchange to focus mainly and solely on one’s own historical visual tradition as a focal point and reaction in any form, bypassing the global artistic developments as a collective agreement, in an attempt to prove historical traditions as a statement which may or may not lead to cultural seclusion. The aim is to have a neutral and curious discourse to explore historical, current, and future possibilities which are meeting at the now-playground.

The focal point in contemporary art finds its root through Western developments in the making of art history yet such great achievement cannot be the mainstream visual values deciding the history and the future of global artistic explorations and cultures.

In a more nuanced and articulated world, there is no singular value as a singular value might lead to a single approach of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, ignoring the natural, cultural, historical, collective, and individual developments that are all parallel paradigms happening at the same time but in different order. In this residency and project the focal point, which is not to be mistaken for the focal value, will be on researching the following matters:

1. Self-initiated programs and events in both the Arabian Peninsula and India: researching and documenting both historical developments and the making of the now which is the future’s history.
2. The cultural, socio-, and geopolitical ties and exchange with Kerala in a pre- and post-oil paradigm and the current mutual economical interdependency of both regions which affects cultural expressions.
3. The artists’ self-initiated subject of research during the residency and reflection of the effect of the experience of being abroad and the how such an event influences one’s artistic practice and individual path.
4. The collective artistic response to the concept delivered by the curator.
5. Possible forms of exchange within the regions.
6. The effect of economic change in both regions and the effect that it has on mutual ties and agreements and the development of the artists , architecture, and cultural in general.

While one easily can assume that the world is more accessible today through media outlets and open information resources available to people/artists, certain boundaries remain factual borders in transferring and exchanging knowledge between art communities and institutions in terms of factual exchange and artistic cohesion to form new developments.

All this comes besides the actual limitation of physical information and movement in which the impact of commercial valuation on culture and how this changes archiving of cultural history.

For this project, cultural initiators and makers are approached to research in neighbouring art communities and artistic cultures as a realistic option of what could be an alternative contemporary art reality that might have its current roots in European visual art development yet it is capable of having a strong identity of its own. Such an identity neither rejects Eurocentrism as a statement of local identity nor totally adapts to it as the highest form of art, denying all possible options of artistic, cultural, and social exploration. Cultural initiators and artists can also research their own experiences as such and approach towards what the future of contemporary art will look like in a globalized singular approach towards how and what contemporary art could become.


Programme Content

The Trans-Indian Ocean Artists Exchange will happen in four phases.

Phase 1 is the curatorial residency in both Kerala and the UAE as part of the research for the project. The conceptual brief for artists and the institutional associations for the execution of the project would be developed in this phase by the curator Mo Reda.

In phase 2, the artists from the Gulf will be hosted by the Kochi Biennale Foundation and be in residence at Pepper House for eight weeks. The artists in this part of the project are Mohammed Kazem and Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim. The work of the artists will be shown in the Pepper House Residency exhibition parallel to the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

In phase 3, two artists from India will be hosted in Sharjah by the Maraya Art Centre. They will be in residence for a period of one month.

Phase 4 is the gathering of the total work of the four artists of the project. An exhibition of the Trans-Indian Ocean Artists Exchange will be curated by Mo Reda and shown in the Gulf in December 2017.