Bringing together artwork, archival material and architectural research from across the Global South, ‘Guest Relations’ examines the historical, political, social and cultural transformations accompanying processes of intense touristification.
The exhibition emerges out of, and responds to, the context of Dubai – one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the world. Part of a broader strategy to ensure continued prosperity beyond fossil fuels, the city’s model for urban development – driven by significant state and private investment in the hospitality industry – has been widely emulated.
‘Guest Relations’ foregrounds social complexities and narrative possibilities beyond projections of luxury and spectacle, elucidating the cultural and historical contours of what we might call the ‘work of welcome’.
Focused on the transactional nature of modern hospitality, the exhibition centres the hotel as a historical subject and a site of artistic investigation, while touching on other key sites of the hospitality industry such as airlines, cruise ships, amusement parks and social media platforms. Hotels are spaces of temporary residence, providing visitors with the comfort and security of home in faraway lands. They are enclaves where complex relations and negotiations between guest and host play out. Through the second half of the 20th century, hotels across the Gulf were engines of modernisation and treasured icons of modernity. Vital, if exclusive, communal hubs, they provided rare opportunities for leisure, consumption and entertainment. They became magical portals to a cosmopolitan elsewhere, zones of exception where, under the guise of tourism, practices outside social norms were permitted.
Tracing the hotel’s history, from colonial hubris and grandeur to its ubiquity in the age of globalisation, ‘Guest Relations’ narrates histories of nationalism, modernity and war, and their intersections with labour and class, through the material and immaterial infrastructures of hospitality.
With works by Pio Abad, Nadi Abusaada, Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Marwa Arsanios, Abdul Halik Azeez, AsmaBelhamar, Sophie Calle, Tenzing Dakpa, Shezad Dawood, Meschac Gaba, Mario García Torres, Lamya Gargash,Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Mati Jhurry & Nabla Yahya, Eisa Jocson, Hilmi Johandi, RanjitKandalgaonkar, Ahmed Mater, Hind Mezaina, Park Sunyoung & Lee Somi, Michael Rakowitz, MarwanRechmaoui, Yiyo Tirado Rivera, Salma Serry, Taryn Simon, Svay Ken, Rayyane Tabet, Hale Tenger, Sung Tieu,Lantian Xie, Ala Younis
‘Guest Relations’ is curated by Murtaza Vali with Lucas Morin.
Press release from Jameel Arts Centre
Image: Pio Abad. Oh! Oh! Oh! (A Universal History of Iniquity). 2013. Digitally printed wallpaper, plastic perfume in the shape of a camel, a palace, a khanjar, the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa, and narra wooden shelves. Photography by Daniella Baptista. Image courtesy of the artist and Art Jameel