Encounter: Listening to the City

Maraya Art Park, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
12 Mar 2014 - 12 May 2014

Encounter: Listening to the City

Artwork courtesy of the artist Joe Namy

Drawing on the theme of Livia Alexander’s and Nat Muller’s exhibition “Customs Made: Quotidian Practices and Everyday Rituals” at the Maraya Art Centre, Encounter: Listening to the City explores how individuals carve out autonomous spaces of agency and self-expression and forge new communities in a rapidly changing urban environment.

Sound, music and the spoken voice can create spaces of nostalgia, belonging and reflection. Artists can transform and subvert meanings. Sounds, like rituals, can become a space where private meets public. The public can weave their individual beliefs into the fabric of the city they inhabit. Present and past meet aurally; a snatch of tune or a once familiar sound can trigger a memory. Using our auditory sense can make us more aware of ourselves, it can feel, intimate, almost covert or solipsistic.

Encounter invites the public to experience and engage with the sound installations presented in the Maraya Art Park in shipping containers, covered walkways and other sites. The artists in this exhibition conduct research into belief systems, vernacular and popular culture, observing culture’s propensity towards transmutation. Music and rituals remake and strengthen social bonds.

In taxis, shops, malls, cars, the street, there is an eclectic soundtrack to the mingle of cultures and histories found together in the Emirates. Music reinforces a connection with ‘home’ which is not the Emirates for the vast majority of its population. Music transcends national boundaries. Throughout history musical influences have effortlessly permeated borders, allowing cultures to seep into each other. With the advent of YouTube, the international cross-fertilisation of musical and dance genres is ever-accelerating. The playing field has been leveled between high and low, pop and folk, world-famous and unknown, mainstream and niche, global and local; dance crazes spread across the globe like wildfire.

Sound is a way to communicate without the necessity of language. It sends a universal, inescapable message, be it an emergency vehicle siren or a human scream. Language, however, is at the core to self-expression and identity. In the UAE, where you hear many different languages, communication is not always a smooth path and so hybrid forms of communication emerge.

These artists are interested in elements that can be arranged or eroded by the individual within state-controlled parametres to create moments of joy, community, nostalgia, homesickness, contemplation or peace. Individuals negotiate the semi-public spaces of corniche, park, malls, courtyards, cars and overlay them with their own soundscape, often using smartphone technology. Some of these artists are interested in how sound can be used in the reoccupying of space that has been taken. They observe the rapid destruction and remaking of the environment, imagining science fictive outcomes.

Curated by Dr. Alexandra MacGilp

Participating Artists:
Hans Rosenstrom, Hind Mezaina, Joe Namy, Kapwani Kiwanga, Maitha Demithan, Deniz Uster, Ala Ebtekar


Maraya Art Park
Al Majaz Waterfront,




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