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Hrair Sarkissian: Using photography to make visible the legacy of trauma

The exhibition, ‘Hrair Sarkissian: The Other Side of Silence,’ at the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Gallery 3 and 4 takes the viewer on a journey to the squares of Aleppo, Latakia, and Damascus, and through the skies of Palmyra, and the snow-covered landscapes of contemporary Armenia.
Jointly organized by Sharjah Art Foundation, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, and the Bonnefanten, Maastricht, this is the first major survey of Sarkissian's practice and brings together artworks in the most extensive presentation to date.

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Besides his signature life-size photographs, the exhibition showcases the artist’s works in video, sculpture, sound, and installation.
Curated by Dr Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation; Dr Theodor Ringborg, Artistic Director, Bonniers Konsthall; and Stijn Huijts, Artistic Director, the Bonnefanten, ‘The Other Side of Silence’ explores histories of disappearance, the architecture of violence, and the potential of the medium of photography itself.
Born and raised in Damascus in 1973, Hrair Sarkissian is a photographer who earned his initial training in his father’s photo lab ‘Dream Color’ where he spent all his childhood vacations and where he worked full-time for 12 years after high school.
In 2010, he completed a BFA in Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam, where he continued using analogue large format photography as his primary medium.
Sarkissian lives and works in London since 2011.
“I use photography as a way to tell stories that are not immediately visible on the surface. Employing traditional documentary techniques and using a 4×5 analogue camera, my photographic series consist of austere, large-scale images. The constancy and beauty of the settings, however, are at odds with the socio-historical realities that they conceal. Photography is my tool to search for answers related to my personal memories and background, and I use this subjectivity as a way to navigate larger stories that official histories are unable or unwilling to tell,” Sarkissian says of his work.
“I try to engage the viewer into a more profound reading of what lies behind the surface of the image, thereby re-evaluating larger historical or social narratives. Once people become aware of the invisible elements behind my work, the physicality of the image is almost destroyed. The architecture and surroundings of the execution squares are no more than a backdrop when you see the bodies hanging in your mind; the faces upon which the zebiba (prayer bump) is imprinted are no longer individuals; the still darkness of the libraries becomes loaded once you realize what historical complexities these archives cover.”
Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation, writes in the Foreword of the catalog that it feels fitting that this exhibition should begin its international journey in Sharjah.
Sarkissian’s relationship with SAF dates back to 2009, when his iconic ‘Execution Squares’ was included in one of the early exhibitions at the newly established Foundation which acquired the work.
Sarkissian's installation, ‘Final Flight’ was co-produced by the Foundation and exhibited during Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019).
Noting that Sarkissian became increasingly attuned to the conceptual possibilities of large-format photography, Hoor says that his approach is “to make visible that which is withheld from public records or erased from the collective imagination.”
This specifically refers to his work ‘Last Seen’ (2018-21), realized by the support from SAF. Hoor highlights Sarkissian's “unwavering commitment to making visible the legacy of trauma for the living over the disappearance of loved ones during periods of historical conflict.
“Last Seen,’ the artist’s most ambitious project to date, comprise 50 photographs representing the lives of families whose loved ones unexpectedly “disappeared” during times of conflict.
Sarkissian spent time with families with an aim to resuscitate the memory of those individuals ‘lost’ to history — withheld from life or death, in Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Kosovo and Lebanon. A single click presents the site of their last appearance — sites that became memorials in their own right.
As Omar Khleif notes: “Sarkissian’s work while not explicitly concerned with trauma evokes its embodiment and afterlife. The wounds and distresses of the past are made manifest through the interplay of absences. For it is within the act of silence that the author and witnesses become one.”
This is especially true of the series ‘Execution Squares’ (2008), where Sarkissian uses the camera “as an object of erasure and enclosure.”
‘Execution Squares’ depicts public squares in three Syrian cities — Aleppo, Latakia, and Damascus – where public executions used to take place. The work, comprising 14 life-size photos, came out of a personal encounter Sarkissian had as a teenager on his way to school when he saw three bodies hanging in one of these squares.
As an adult, he returns to the same locations, documenting these empty squares at dawn – the time when these executions used to happen, to erase the trauma from his memory, as well as to create a public archive of political and social reality.
‘Deathscape’ (2020) is a sound installation where Sarkissian shrouds the viewer in darkness while the sounds of scratching and distant voices invade the senses. The work was realized by attaching microphones to the bodies of forensic scientists during archaeological digs to document the soundscape as they unearthed mass tombs. The absence of any visual cues invites the mind to ponder the reality of nameless victims condemned to death by fascist regimes.
‘In Between’ (2006) explores the landscapes in Armenia covered in snow, exploring his Armenian origins with an evocative and lyrical touch.
The exhibition also includes ‘Final Flight’ (2018-2019), his multimedia commission for Sharjah Biennial 14, which explores the story of the endangered Northern Bald Ibis through print, film and sculpture. Efforts to conserve the last colony discovered in the Syrian dessert near Palmyra were constrained by the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and the birds finally disappeared around the time Palmyra was destroyed in 2014.
“We live in an era where social justice has been enabled through the medium of photography and its mass proliferation. The act of re-authoring history to reflect the diversity of human memory and lived experience is at the heart of Hrair Sarkissian’s practice,” says curator Dr Kholeif.
‘Hrair Sarkissian: The Other Side of Silence’ will be on view at Sharjah Art Foundation till January 30, 2022, and Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm,, from April 26 to June 19, 2022, before travelling to the Bonnefanten, , Maastricht, where it will be on view in late summer 2022.

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EU Organic Journey Hosts Exclusive B2B Dinner in Dubai, Unveiling European Organic Excellence

The European program “EU Organic Journey”nhosted a distinguished B2B dinner on the evening of the 14th of December 2023 at 19:00, set against the elegant backdrop of MYOCUM Dubai Restaurant (2D St, Al Wasl, Dubai, United Arab Emirates).
Bringing together key players from the Horeca sector, importers, distributors, wholesalers, grocery chains, organic shops, and esteemed food bloggers, the event showcased an array of delectable European organic products, including virgin olive oil, olives, and organic dairy products.
Attendees were treated to a unique opportunity to engage with representatives from the contributing organizations, fostering connections while savoring the exquisite European offerings. The ambiance of MYOCUM Dubai Restaurant provided the perfect setting for meaningful discussions on potential business opportunities. Throughout the evening, participants delved into the heart of the European program  “EU Organic Journey”gaining valuable insights into its initiatives, organic production methods,
and the superior quality of the promoted products. Representatives from the participating organizations were on hand to provide in-depth information, facilitating discussions on potential collaborations and partnerships within the organic industry.
The B2B dinner not only celebrated the richness of European organic products but also served as a platform for networking and knowledge-sharing. Attendees left the event with a deeper understanding of the “EU Organic Journey,” equipped with the information needed to explore new business avenues and enhance their involvement in the organic sector. The EU Financed campaign EU Organic Journey aims to promote and increase the awareness regarding the European organic products from Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria to consumers in UAE, Saudi Arabia and USA with the participation of the organizations Agrodiatrofiki Sympraxi Perifereias Stereas Elladas (ASPSE) from Greece, Bio Carpathia Cooperative from
Romania and National Organic Association (NAO)from Bulgaria.

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Classification: Public New Murabba appointed AtkinsRéalis to masterplan the world’s largest modern downtown in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The New Murabba Development Company (NMDC), a fully-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia,
has appointed AtkinsRéalis (TSX: ATRL), a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world, to support the design of the New Murabba masterplan, the world’s largest modern downtown in Riyadh, and the Mukaab, an immersive destination that will revolutionize the way in which people experience hospitality, retail and
leisure. A signing ceremony, attended by Sabah Barakat, Acting CEO, New Murabba Development Company, and Campbell Gray, CEO of AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa, was held to mark this milestone and celebrate the ongoing support to deliver Riyadh’s new iconic destination. Sabah Barakat, Acting CEO, New Murabba Development Company, commented: “We are proud
to recognize the important role that AtkinsRéalis has played so far in the translation of the incredible vision of this project into the design of the masterplan and the iconic Mukaab building. We’re also pleased to recognize the ongoing involvement of AtkinsRéalis in this project through a series of recent contract awards relating to the further detailing and definition
of the overall New Murabba masterplan and infrastructure design, as well as the concept design of the iconic Mukaab building.”
“The New Murabba project aligns with Saudi Arabia’s national vision aimed at developing the infrastructure, enabling the private sector, and creating job opportunities for local talent,“ added Campbell Gray, CEO of AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa. “We are proud to work with NMDC on this ambitious project and bring our global engineering excellence and design
expertise, underpinned by cutting-edge technologies and sustainable solutions, to deliver a long-  lasting legacy for the Kingdom and its future generations.” After successfully winning the international architectural and master planning competition for Riyadh’s new icon, AtkinsRéalis will provide its world class advisory, architecture, masterplanning and engineering services to deliver this groundbreaking project, a cornerstone to the visionary reinvention of the Kingdom’s capital city. Contributing to the city’s future development in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the New Murabba masterplan is inspired by Riyadh’s original balance with nature, and its design is focused on a data-driven approach to sustainability, user convenience, reduction in the need for transport, walkability and people- centric design of its public realm. “Synonymous with designing iconic landmarks in the Middle East, AtkinsRéalis has established a stellar reputation for delivering people-centric destinations combining the region’s cultural identity with modern urban standards,“ said Matthew Tribe, Managing Director, Planning, Design, and Engineering at AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa. “This project win is a testament to our innovative architectural design approach set to redefine downtowns of the future living experience not only in Riyadh but also globally.”

AtkinsRéalis’s competition-winning scheme is inspired by Najdi Architecture, with a focus on creating a futuristic landmark with deep contextual roots that blends Riyadh’s cultural heritage with its future ambitions. The Mukaab, which means cube in Arabic, will be the world’s largest immersive destination providing innovative experiences driven by digital and virtual technology.
The Mukaab’s exterior envelop shrouds an internal skyscraper, which will be one of the largest built structures in the world’s history, standing 400m high, 400m wide, and 400m long. The design of the Mukaab will also include first-of-its-kind hospitality, F&B and retail facilities.

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ASPIRE’s A2RL Debuts Autonomous Racing Car in Abu Dhabi

-Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League to hold its first event in April 2024

– A2RL introduces an enhanced version of the 300 km/h Japanese Super Formula SF23 racing car

– Autonomous technology testing commences ahead of inaugural race in April 2024

ASPIRE’s grand challenge, the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League – A2RL, has for the first time revealed its autonomous, highly modified Super Formula SF23 development car. The first glimpse
unfolded at ASPIRE’s offices in Abu Dhabi, near the world-famous Yas Marina Circuit, where the premier event of the season – the Formula 1 (F1) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023 – is currently underway. The same venue will play host to the inaugural A2RL racing event scheduled for next April. Globally acclaimed journalists, representing the world’s most reputable automotive and
racing publications, were also present during the car’s spectacular reveal – further solidifying
the cars status as a trailblazer in the motorsports industry. In April 2024, ten teams spanning North America, Europe, the UAE, and Asia will battle it out to claim a stake in the US$2.25 million purse. The series aims to accelerate autonomous driving development and innovation, pushing the
technology forward for the eventual benefit of road car safety. The new series makes the best use of the forward-thinking and blisteringly quick Super Formula SF23 racing car, developed by motorsport powerhouse Dalarra. All cars will come equipped with an array of sensors and control units as well as a basic level of autonomous performance. The autonomous car unveiled today was fresh off the track, having completed a successful week of testing. Attendees were shown how A2RL’s extensive testing programme has begun to refine the base SF23 platform. This includes validating an array of sensors, controlmodules, and autonomous control software. Once finalized, this base platform will be madeavailable to the ten teams participating in the inaugural A2RL race at Yas Marina Circuit onApril 28, 2024.

His Excellency Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of the Advanced Technology
Research Council, ASPIREs parent entity, said, “This is an exciting opportunity to use
extreme sports as the basis for delivering technical advances. A2RL represents an
investment that will contribute to building an autonomous mobility ecosystem in Abu Dhabi,
showcasing safe deployment and encouraging OEM investments for widespread adoption,
ultimately enhancing road safety.”
Stephane Timpano, CEO at ASPIRE, commented: “We are thrilled to debut the A2RL
autonomous racing car to global media. It was an exciting opportunity to discuss our latest
developments and testing while also highlighting the motivation and competitors behind the
competition. A2RL will be the largest autonomous racing league in the world, shifting focus
from drivers to the engineers, scientists, and programmers behind brilliant autonomous
racing systems.”

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