01 Jun 2023 - 14 Jun 2023

Symbiotic: Hyperreal

NYUAD Project Art Space


The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery’s auxiliary venue, The Project Space, will open its final exhibition for the season, Symbiotic: Hyperreal, by Emirati artists and brothers Talal Al Najjar and Ziad Al Najjar, tomorrow, June 1, at 5:30pm. The exhibition will run for two weeks from Thursday, June 1 to Wednesday, June 14.

Curated by Tala Nassar, Associate Manager of Curatorial Projects at The NYUAD Art Gallery, Symbiotic: Hyperreal showcases the works of the artists, who create a quality of simulation, unrealness, or hyperreality. Despite working closely together, the brothers maintain a distinct individual practice, as they draw upon their relationship with their surroundings, particularly Dubai, where they grew up.

The term Symbiotic in the title describes the several dualities that manifest in the show: that of two brothers, that of the two cultures in their family of origin, and that of life in the UAE, with its attendant tension between tradition and modernity. Through their work, the artists search for balance between their traditional Emirati heritage and the experience of living in modern Dubai. The artists emulate this experience of dualities by applying ancient motifs from various cultures to a contemporary context.

Nassar commented: “This exhibition is a fitting way to finish what has been one of our strongest and most thought-provoking seasons yet at The Project Space. Viewed together, the works of Talal and Ziad Al Najjar create an arresting quality of hyperreality, akin to the inability to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. From the moment that the viewer enters the space, they are watching but there is also a sense of being watched. This sensation expresses the experience of our fraught reality today, mediated by algorithms, deep fakes, and artificial intelligence, but also offers us a way to see this reality from a new perspective that gives us more control of the way we respond to the pressures of new technologies.”

The creation of dual realities is at the forefront of Talal and Ziad’s artistic practice. Talal’s work tends to recontextualize transhistorical material culture and imagery with a counter-futurist lens. One such example is his NauseaScape video series, where Talal creates his own world from publicly accessible virtual reality tours of Sharjah’s archaeological sites. Meanwhile, Ziad’s work investigates the relationship between humans and the surrounding environment, exploring the ways we observe, and the ways that other living beings observe us. An example is his single-channel video titled Ameba, where Ziad replicates and manipulates scenes of nature to abstract the surrounding environment, almost as if the viewer is experiencing technical difficulties while observing nature.

Press release from NYUAD Art Gallery