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Topologies of Air – research and production at Sharjah Art Foundation

Topologies of Air – Residency at Sharjah Art Foundation

Shona Illingworth completed her research and production residency at Sharjah Art Foundation. She spent two weeks exploring changing relationships to the sky, airspace and outer space in the Gulf region with UAE experts in the field, as well as filming in urban, industrial and desert landscapes.

Shona met with Dr Abdulaziz Mussalla, Director of the Heritage Department in Sharjah, with whom she discussed the history of cultural understanding and narratives about the sky in the Gulf region, and the important role the complex features of the night sky played within a desert landscape.

Shona also met with Fatima Alsamaity at the Mohamed Bin Rashid Space Centre where they discussed the UAE’s post oil strategy to develop space technology including the 100-year plan to establish a city on Mars. They also discussed the wider gendering of technological development in outer space, and the potential significance of the large number of women engineers working at the Space Centre.

During her residency, Shona interviewed Dr Ilias M. Fernini, astrophysicist and Scientific Director at the Sharjah Astronomy Centre. There they discussed the impact of science on our understanding of outer space and the dimensions of time and location, considering how increasingly rapid changes in technology are generating new thinking.

During her stay in the UAE, Shona spoke to a diverse range of people living and working there about their relationship to the sky, including filming in a large desalination plant which, in the absence of rainfall, generates drinking water from sea water, and spending time filming children playing until dusk in the narrow streets of the Al Bustan neighbourhood in Ajman.

Imagining Sky

Children’s workshop
26 April 2019, 4pm-7pm
Sharjah Art Foundation

Through drawing, discussion and filming in the garden and courtyards of the Sharjah Art Foundation, Shona explored ideas of the sky and the airspace with fourteen children. Their skies were busy with birds, technology and celestial bodies. The children were excited about their country’s space programme and concerned about the changing climate and the need for all humans to care about the planet.

Shona would like to thank Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, Judith Greer, Momen Al Ajouz, Reem Shadid, Manal Al Muttawa and the whole team at Sharjah Art Foundation.

The residency in Sharjah is organised and supported by Sharjah Art Foundation. Shona Illingworth is Reader in Fine Art at University of Kent and Topologies of Air form part of her research practice.Topologies of Air is generously supported by the British Council, DCMS and GREAT through the UK-Gulf Culture and sport programme.