Lebanon’s T Sakhi Architects is trying to break down doors with their interactive installation, placed street-side for Dubai Design Week.
Showing under the fifth edition of the Abwab platform, the Lebanese Pavilion’s project titled “WAL(L)TZ” hopes to address Lebanon’s social barriers, and tear them down.
Abwab (doors in Arabic), is an annually remodeled exhibition which commissions work from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, seeking to stimulate cultural exchange and spotlight initiatives that address gaps in society through design.
This year, pavilions from India and the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia, also offer interactive projects around the streets of Dubai’s Design District, under the theme of “Ways of Learning.”
The Beirut-based architecture and design studio, founded by sisters Tessa and Tara Sakhi, responded to the theme with an interactive 15-meter wall made of recycled, compacted foam.
Portraying the many modern socio-political barriers, visitors, turned performers, are invited to interact with holes and gaps, to find ways to overcome the wall and reach people on the other side, taking part in a “choreographed protest, a reinterpreted waltz.”
“Lebanon has a lot of obstacles and barriers, whether they’re political, religious, social or financial,” Tessa told The Daily Star, “but it also related to everyone, regardless of being Lebanese, as we all have physiological barriers - everyone wears masks in public.
“One of the reasons we used recycled foam is because people can scratch it and take it apart ... its part of the process and maybe at the end the whole wall could disintegrate,” she added. “Some of the ‘loopholes’ are more challenging and it depends on your interior fears and battles that you have to break, in order to face the physical wall.”
A live performance by dancer Jadd Tank, where he threw himself at the wall, tried to climb it and defy it, helped display the concept.
“The performer will be showing his relationship to that wall, and if he can find these loopholes to connect from one side to the other,” Tara said. “Does this barrier disappear at some point? Does the resilience of the Lebanese people find a way to transform obstacles to their advantage?
“Some of the holes you can stick your head completely inside or half of your body can fit, trying to get through the obstacles but you can’t,” she added. “Some you can only see to the other side or talk to people through the gaps, but they can’t hear you, because the foam absorbs the sound.”
An iPad for taking photos, and a booth with a mirror, are also on the wall. These are meant to represent technological barriers and infatuation with social media, which the sisters consider a huge social barrier.
Over in the Eastern Provinces of Saudi Arabia Pavilion, Azaz Architects’ Shahad Alazzaz has created “Sa’af,” a research-led project working to safeguard Saudi native crafts, with the support of Ithra.
Collaborating with generations of craftspeople, Alazzaz helped develop innovative textiles and experiment with palm frond weaving, to create a climbable desert shaded by a bright, handmade canopy.
“We’re trying to bring awareness about a very traditional craft in eastern Saudi Arabia that is no longer common nowadays, so we’re trying to regenerate something more modern,” Alazzaz told The Daily Star. “We’ve conducted trips to the artist’s regions and worked with around 10-12 artists to produce such palm meshes.
“Part of giving the craft a facelift is the colors,” she added. “These are traditional colors but the amount we’ve used them is more - it used to be just the raw material with a spark of color. We’ve tried having more of the traditional color present on entire sections.”
The Indian Pavilion’s “Qissa Ghar” by The Busride Design Studio gives life to ancient Indian myths forgotten by modern society. The stories are depicted on Indian-made fabric lamps, which illuminate the myths, some of which are 3000-years-old.
“Because India has such an old culture, it predated writing [with] oral storytelling,” Busride co-founder Ayaz Basrai told The Daily Star. “Seven different indigenous tribes contributed their myths and we gave them to seven illustrators to interpret - there are 49 lamps, seven lamps for each of the seven stories.”
Basrai said these stories offer a new perception of what is Indian, outside of the world’s narrow understanding of only modern Hindu or Muslim India.
“The universe begins with the first women, who gave birth to a man, a tiger and a spirit,” he said of a tale from the Nagha tribe. “As she ages, the tiger starts thinking about what part of her he will eat first when she dies. The powerful spirit gives her headaches so her favorite is the man, who she wants to inherit the land.
“She creates a competition with a glass ball on a faraway hill - the first to touch it wins,” Basrai recounted. “His mother teaches him how to use a bow and he fires the arrow to touch the ball first. The tiger goes to the forest and the spirit goes under ground, which is how they believe man populated the land.”
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