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THE BREAKDOWN: UAE-based artist Moey discusses interactive installation ‘Migrant Minds’

DUBAI: UAE-based conceptual artist Moey talks about his interactive installation that was recently on show at Sikka Art and Design Platform in Dubai. 

Moey is a UAE-based conceptual artist. 

I’ve lived in Dubai for 15 years. I reasoned that if I’m going to name this country home, I should return the favor by using what I do best—my art—to benefit the country. I made the decision to honor the UAE’s history of drawing visitors from all over the world who come here with the hope and aspirations of building a better future when Sikka put out open calls for artists to participate.

I made an enormous traveler’s sack out of Persian carpets and a bamboo stick suspended in the air to represent the idea of being gone from home and discovering one elsewhere. The concept was inspired by the buqsa/jhola (‘bundle’ or ‘bag’ in Arabic/Hindi) carried by travellers to hold their bare essentials in the olden days.

Getting the flexible carpet material to rise straight up was difficult. After a few failed attempts, I discovered that placing a steel-and-wire mesh in the middle of the rugs was effective. Early on, I understood that if I was going to depict refugees in the artwork, I needed to include them in the narrative. I then presented my art project to my neighbors in The Greens by knocking on their doors. The news spread after we created a WhatsApp group. My house quickly became crowded with guests of all kinds. The residents who cooked for us and allowed us to use their space ranged from my neighbor’s nine-year-old neighbor’s daughter, who assisted with the stitching, to her teenage brother, who helped with the drilling to create the wooden platform. We became one big family of 40 people while creating this artwork. Urbanization and modern life have isolated people in cities and I believe we need more such community projects.

At Sikka, the reaction was tremendous. As they attempted to grasp the bamboo stick, the viewers inadvertently became a part of the artwork. They looked inside and saw their own image in the bottom-mounted mirrors. We also played a variety of music, depending on the visitor’s nationality, including Bollywood, Arabic, and Turkish, to arouse feelings of nostalgia in them as they engaged with “Migrant Minds.”

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