For this project, Al Qadiri has produced nine sculptures, as well as a new virtuoso film, “Holy Quarter”, shot in the world’s largest desert region, the Rub’ al Khali (‘Empty Quarter’) between Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. Al Qadiri belongs to a generation whose biography is marked by the rapid transformation of the young nation state of Kuwait – from the oldest forms of life, via the massively promoted oil economy that emerged from the 1960s onwards, to becoming an important geopolitical protagonist within the region. Within the visual arts, Al Qadiri’s work assumes the role of a seismograph for a world that has been globalised by force. Throughout her artistic career, Al Qadiri has been concerned with dissension as a consequence of prosperity, repressive religious beliefs and magical thinking. She focuses on imbalances in economic policies, the contradictions between conservative structures and new technologies, and forced social visions of the future. 

“Holy Quarter” sees the artist searching for a missing empirical certainty and, for the first time, centring on the myth-enshrouded places such as the Majlis al Jinn cave (also known as the ‘Meeting Place of the Spirits’), in order to recover lost stories and the tales of ancestors. Beyond Western ideas of modernity, she confronts viewers with a spatiotemporal delirium. The desert as one of the oldest and most unspoiled habitats serves Al Qadiri as a place to search for traces of the meaning of existence. In the Wabar meteorite crater, she found ‘Wabar pearls’, beautiful black shining stones which were created by the heat of impacting meteorites in the sand, and from which she derived her group of glass sculptures. The pearl-like form of these stones is reminiscent of the time when pearl diving was once Kuwait’s main industry, and their colour is reminiscent of oil – a quantum leap towards what Monira Al Qadiri calls ‘alien technology’. With Holy Quarter, the artist has created an intermedial project that interweaves music, language and powerful visual scenes from her homeland, hitting upon the nerve of global issues.

Curated by Jana Baumann