Mirage or oasis? That’s the theme of this year’s Desert X AlUla
International artists converge on the Saudi desert with their politically-charged installations
Serge Attukwei Clottey, installation view, Desert X AlUla 2022, courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla. Photography: Lance Gerber
The Saudi Arabian desert is blooming with art once again, as the second Desert X AlUla opens on 11 February, exploring the theme of Sarab – mirages and oases.
The contemporary festival invites 15 Saudi and international artists to respond to the arid terrain of the Al Mutadil valley for the exhibition, which probes the relationship between man and nature through site-responsive land art installations.
‘In many ways, the landscape is the curator in a show like this,’ says Neville Wakefield, who co-curated the edition alongside Reem Fadda and Raneem Farsi.
This year’s crop of artists includes Shadia Alem, Dana Awartani, Abdullah AlOthman and Shaikha Al Mazrou.
Awartani’s colossal concave sculpture references the Nabataean tombs found in the region, while AlOthman tackles the festival theme Sarab more directly via his stainless steel plinth installation, which reflects light to recreate the hallucinogenic experience of seeing a mirage.
Khalil Rabah has transplanted a desert orchard to the valley – a foreign entity rooted in ideas around territory, survival and citizenship. Another highlight is a giant erupting sculpture by ‘Afrogallonist’ pioneer Serge Attukwei Clottey, who stitched together tiles cut from jerry cans and containers. His towering 3D piece probes ideas around globalisation, migration and water equity, and mimics a waterfall, bursting out from the cracks of the undulating rock face.
Desert X AlUla is an offshoot of the popular California festival, Desert X, with the Saudi festival open to the public at the ancient site until 30 March 2022.