Sustainability has implications for almost all spheres of human activity: the question of how or what it means to exist sustainably is not a new one. There are many examples of how previous generations and societies have instinctively integrated sustainable practices into lifestyle, architecture and social structures. Whilst it is still debated as to whether Sustainable Art can be considered an undercurrent or even a movement — originating perhaps from the artistic experimentation of the late 1960s and early 70s—there is no doubt that it is an underlying concern for many artists. In this exhibition, 'Sustaining Identity', we approach sustainability from a social perspective. Whilst encouraging artists to consider the use of materials as well as ecological concerns, we sought to uncover through an open call, artists dealing with questions of sustainable identities, inheritance, and sustaining art practices.

By taking sustainability as referring to the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld or confirmed, we curated the exhibition to encompass works that relate to our immediate present. The works do not dwell on shared nostalgia but celebrate inherited knowledge, rituals and collective thought. Moreover, they each demonstrate a unique interpretation of sustainability, revealing a spectrum of readings and an insight into how art and artists relate to and engage with the current state of the world around us.

The exhibition is multi-disciplinary, ranging from solar prints that trace the wild plants indigenous to the UAE and photographs that explore the world's potential futures to sculptural works that question our relationship with the environment. Several works look towards identity, particularly within the context of the UAE, triggering questions about a city often described as 'transient'. How do we both confirm and build on the identity of a nation so that it may continue to have longevity and not only survive but build on inheritance in order to sustain a future identity?

Other works question what it is that sustains an artist's practice; a recurring thought, a project or a process; is it continued evaluation by our peers or subjective reflection? Some explore how we identify the key elements in our processes—whether these are related to the materials used or the steps taken—that will allow us to maintain momentum, dynamism, engagement and ultimately communicate to viewers the core and critical objectives of our work.

A further commonality to all the works selected is a certain integrity and rigorousness to the concept which is balanced and articulated through an understanding of materials and process. This feeds into our commitment to supporting artists through their every day practices, sustaining and maintaining an increasingly discerning generation of artists living and working in the UAE.


Abir Mnasria and Zaina Khayyat, Afra AlDhaheri, Alia Dawood, Bob Dahm, Collective W.I.N, Colleen Quigley, Fatima AlBudoor, Hasnat Mehmood, Jeff Scofield, Jonny Farrow, Karee S Dahl, Maitha Demithan, Naz Sharokh, Saher Samman, Tom Baggaley, Zlatan Filipovic

Exhibited Artworks