The artistic and curatorial team behind After Illusion is made up of three remarkable women: the renowned land artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi, project advisor Nada Shabout and curator Eiman Elgibreen. Celebrated land artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi has been selected to exhibit After Illusion, a site-specific installation using natural materials inspired by the artist’s sense of home, at After Illusion is heavily informed by the overall Biennale theme ‘May you live in interesting times’. ‘Interesting’ is a purposefully vague word, loaded with alternative meanings. In After Illusion Al-Ghamdi meditates on the value of uncertainty. Exploring the dichotomy between something new, but familiar, illusion and truth. Inviting us to free ourselves from the obligations that come from taking a definitive stance, opening new doors to self-awareness and transformation.
Al-Ghamdi wants After Illusion to feel like stepping into an imaginary world. The 50,000 handmade leather spheres come to life around you, glowing, vibrating and moving like creatures, activated by the visitor’s presence. Inviting them to recognise, reconnect, and revisit a feeling of exploring something new but familiar.
From the materiality of the leathers, sand and rocks that form the installation and creatures, to the artist and curator’s own upbringings, After Illusion draws on important elements of Saudi culture and conjure a sense of the artist’s home. The artwork goes beyond the most common, and sometimes surface-level understandings of Saudi Arabia. It draws on Saudi oral history and poetry for a modern audience, reflecting on the country’s rich history and nuanced identity.
The title After Illusion refers to a line from an ancient Arabic poem written by Zuhayr bin Abī Sūlmā (b.520- d.609) in which the poet describes the struggle to recognise his home after being away for 20 years. Only illusion helps the eighty-year-old recognise it – a state of mind we think obscures the truth, but actually paves the way to it.
The books is bilingual (Arabic and English) and contains an introduction from HH Prince Badr Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan and textes by Al Saud, the curators Nada Shabout and Eiman Elgibreen, Jean Baudrillard, Abdullah Al Ghathami, Geir Grundvåg Ottesen and Kjell Grønhaug, Mona Khazindar, Abdulrahman Alsoliman and Maha Malluh.