Fixations: Ubik Turns UAE Visa Woes into Art
Fixations is a series of conversations and profiles that offers artists a platform to muse upon their current preoccupations. Here Stephanie Sykes talk to Dubai-based artist Ubik about how the fluctuating nature of his residency visa informs his practice, including work in a recent solo show at Galeria Sabrina Amrani.
Stephanie Sykes : Why do you choose to maintain your art practice in Dubai despite your visa woes?
Ubik: Dubai is home in a lot of strange and weird ways, plus I’m surrounded by weird and wonderful company. So, yeah, Dubai’s fun to be in. The city gets me to sometimes, and that’s when I switch into hermit mode and stay inside my room/studio and work, or just be grumpy and watch Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, I watch Grey’s Anatomy.
SS: Due to various visa issues, you were unable to attend your exhibition’s opening at Galeria Sabrina Amrani in Spain. Can you tell us more about this?
Ubik: I couldn’t go to Madrid for the opening because my Dubai visa wasn’t stamped in my passport. I figured the best way to still be present for the opening was to Skype in. So that’s what I ended up doing.
SS: How did the collaboration with Galería Sabrina Amrani come about?
Ubik: I met the gallerists during Art Dubai 2011 when I was showing with Traffic. They took a liking to my works and were quite keen on showing my works in their space. At the beginning of this year, they told me there was a slot free in April for a solo, and I said yes. They are awesome to work with, and considering the fact that their daughter was born a few weeks before my opening, they were super helpful with everything.
SS: Why did you decide on ‘Dissident’ as the title of exhibition and how is it thematically indicative of the body of work you’ve chosen to show?
Ubik: I was listening to the namesake Pearl Jam song while I was writing my show proposal. Most titles of my exhibitions and works tend to originate from the names of songs I like. Little known fact!
In a nutshell, the show explores the aesthetics of various sociopolitical events. The title piece of the show is a replica of my new visa, which doubles as a self-portrait.
SS: What provoked your political interest in propaganda, capitalism and consumerism?
Ubik: I’ve always been intrigued by politics and its nuances. The state of the world we live in right now is so messed up, but it’s so amusing and entertaining. Am I an activist? I think not. I’m just more interested in exploring, and to some extent, exploiting these political nuances. I’ve always been drawn to propaganda. North Korea is my dream destination.
SS: This has been a busy spring for you, with your various projects for Art Dubai, Design Days Dubai, and now this show. What’s next?
Ubik: Spring is over. Ugh! I hate the dreaded summers. Yeah, it’s been busy. Post-Madrid, I have two group shows lined up towards the end of May and another site-specific project in September. I should get my act together and start applying for residences for summer. I’m also starting to work on some new stuff, a possible new direction, or maybe not. I’m always working on something or the other.
UBIK is a Dubai-based artist and designer whose practice looks at the language of propaganda and consumerism through a medley of installation, drawing and text-based work. He contributed two projects to Art Dubai 2012, including the tastily ubiquitous Portrait of an Artist through His Statements and a collaborative installation with James Clar, Oil and Water. His work will be included in two upcoming group shows in the UAE, including ‘TEXT ME’ at Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi and ‘A Most Precarious Relationship: Artists, Audiences and Interactive Art in the Emirates’ at Maraya Arts Center in Sharjah.
Stephanie Sykes is a writer and arts professional based in Los Angeles. She is has worked for a number of cultural organisations, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Art Dubai, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. She is the Los Angeles Contributing Editor for Harper’s Bazaar Art and writes regularly about contemporary art and culture for outlets such as LACMA Unframed, Contemporary Practices, Artco, Vision and Upward Curve. She holds an MFA Curating from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a BA from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.