Mohammed Kazem MFA '12 (Studio Art)

A native of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Kazem MFA ’12 (Studio Art) is an internationally recognized conceptual artist whose work touches on a wide range of changes occurring across the globe and explores abstract ideas about the body, movement, space and the natural elements. Selected as the sole representative of the UAE in this year’s Venice Biennale, his entry is an engaging video and GPS installation of his ongoing series “Directions,” in which the viewer stands at the center of a room surrounded by a moving projection of the sea.

He recently sat down with the University’s magazine, Edge, to offer some thoughts on his artistic experiences, at UArts and across the globe.

The Work
"My work is related to the global transformations that are occurring today in the social, political and natural environments. Through my work, I reflect on the multiple events around me and raise issues closely related to specific aspects that have affected my personal biography, such as the changes in the UAE or situations I have experienced through my travels internationally."

"I aim to produce works that are animated by a sense of harmony, by using photos, images, video and available technologies, but I also use traditional and conventional practices like drawing and painting when necessary to convey or support my concept."

"Directions" (detail).

The Philadelphia Experience
"The environment was rich and I was exposed to a variety of stimulations – meeting other artists, gallerists, collectors etc., attending talks and lectures, visiting exhibitions. Workshops and mutual mentoring were valuable tools for looking at one’s work from a different perspective. Besides, the freedom to express in different ways, without any form of censorship, is a significant component of my experience in the U.S. and in Europe. I first had the chance to be an artist-in-residence at UArts in 2010. There I met Joe Girandola, the former head of the MFA program, who promoted the collaboration and the exchange between the UArts students and the Middle Eastern art scene. Together we organized the participation of a dozen artists enrolled in the MFA program into the Emirates Fine Arts Society Annual Exhibition at the Sharjah Museum in 2011. This collaboration was further developed in 2012 when two MFA students were invited to Dubai for a two-month residency.'

The Venice Biennale
"My work presented in Venice is a long-term project started in 2002, then developed in 2005, and has finally come to its full realization in 2013. I often work on projects that I develop over the course of several years. Obviously, this shapes the work in a way that can slightly vary, and external elements are also involved and can be integrated."

International Artistic Development
"As an artist from the Middle East, Europe and the U.S. still present the opportunity of a wide cultural offer, which is extremely profitable to the growth of an artist in terms of being exposed to a multitude of different stimuli. This is slowly but steadily changing also in the UAE, although the cultural and social limitations still make it preferable for young artists to travel and see a variety of artistic expressions."

Technology and the Artist
"Technology is indeed a valuable tool for approaching a multitude of different artistic and cultural experiences. Nevertheless, the actual physical interaction with other environments remains, in my opinion, an irreplaceable experience as one is exposed to and immersed in a different cultural context at large."