Amir Berbic, Haig Aivazian, Abbas Akhavan, Lamya Gargash, George Katodrytis, Nikolaj Skyum Bendix Larsen, Armin Linke, Hajra Waheed

Curated by: Srimoyee Mitra

9 September 2011 - 29 October 2011
Opening Reception 9 September 2011 8pm

Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues with Dubai presents artworks by eight noted international artists in order to consider the present day position of Dubai as a nexus of culture, capital and migration in the Gulf region and in the Middle East. Guest curator Srimoyee Mitra has assembled this exhibition based on her interest in the impact of current infrastructural developments in the city, mapping their effect on how Dubai’s history and culture are being shaped. Dubai has gained heightened visibility due to its rapid economic growth, development and cultural promotion worldwide. Changing Stakes is the first exhibition in Toronto to focus on art practices addressing the dramatic rise of the city.

Over the last two decades Dubai has exploded on the world stage as a paradise of luxury and leisure. Marketing itself as an exclusive oasis for limitless consumption, it became an icon for extreme-capitalism and unrestricted development projects in the 21st Century. Its ambitions manifested themselves in the rapid rise of large-scale constructions across the city that transformed its landscape from a modest port surrounded by an arid dessert to megaluxury housing projects, business districts, malls, hotels, parks and golf courses, an artificial coastline and islands with idyllic sandy beaches. Every building was new and many held records for being the world’s largest, tallest and most technologically advanced. While the booming oil and housing markets fueled these developments to capture the imagination of tourists, investors and the high-end expatriate workforce, they did not address crucial challenges and questions of transparency, sustainability and spatial divisions that isolated different parts of it based on socio-economic, cultural and racial lines.

Participating artists Haig Aivazian (Chicago/Dubai), Abbas Akhavan (Toronto), Amir Berbic (UAE), Lamya Gargash (London/Dubai), George Katodrytis (UAE), Armin Linke (Berlin/Milan), Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen (London/Copenhagen) and Hajra Waheed (Montreal) use a range of materials from tourist brochures and billboard advertisements to personal photographs, films and videos, as well as magazines and other found ephemera to investigate how notions of a place are constructed by the absence and presence of images in the popular psyche.

Engaging in a process of dialogue with the artists, Mitra’s research also extends into detailed scholarly investigation. Through a series of artists’ talks and panels, she will bring these debates to a larger art-going public. Scheduled to run from 9 September to 29 October 2011, the exhibition will overlap with Art Toronto 2011.

Mercer Union gratefully acknowledges the support of its cultural partners for the exhibition Changing Stakes. Armin Linke’s participation is supported by the Goethe-Institut and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen’s participation is supported by the Danish Cultural Agency.