Alumna Alia Farid at Gwangju Biennale

Acquiring Modernity is Kuwait's participation in the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia. View of installation. Alia Farid, 2014.
ACT at MIT

Alumna Alia Farid (SMVisS ’08) has been selected to show her work at this year’s Gwangju Biennale at the invitation of Clara Kim, Daskalopoulos Senior Curator at London’s Tate Modern.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation recently announced their full list of artists for the 12th Gwangju Biennale, Imagined Borders. The Biennale will include 162 artists from 42 countries participating in a series of seven exhibitions exploring the political, cultural, physical, and emotional concepts of borders in today’s global community. Eleven curators from around the world were chosen to devise a program of thematic exhibitions, in addition to a monumental new program, the GB Commission and a series of Pavilion Projects will be installed across the city of Gwangju, South Korea, from September 7 – November 11, 2018.

Kim’s curation will look into the past to understand contemporary realities, investigating the intersection between modernism, architecture, and nation-building in the mid-20th century across different geographies and contexts.

Farid works at the intersection of art, architecture and urban anthropology. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from La Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico (Viejo San Juan), a Master of Science in Visual Studies from the Visual Arts Program at MIT (Cambridge, MA), and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies and Critical Theory from the Programa d’Estudis Independents at MACBA (Barcelona). Her work is expressed through videos, spatial installations, drawings and other mediums.

In her own words, Farid says she, “began making work somewhere in between art, architecture and urban anthropology. Today I’m still interested in these areas, but with a much more focused point on telling how informal networks are forced to make up for lack of formal structure, as one of the things I value most is the subversive quality of work that goes unnoticed.” 

Farid’s most ambitious project to date has been curating the Pavilion of Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, which, despite its appearance at La Biennale di Venezia, placed emphasis on what participation could induce locally in an environment driven by ideologies incongruent with critical and aesthetic thought.

She has completed residencies at Beta Local (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Casa Árabe in conjunction with Delfina Foundation (Córdoba, Spain), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Doha, Qatar), Davidoff Art Initiative (La Romana, Dominican Republic), The Serpentine Galleries (London, United Kingdom), La Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris, France), and marra.tein (Beirut, Lebanon). Recent and upcoming shows include participation in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016), the 20th Contemporary Art Festival by SESC Pomépia and VideoBrasil (2017); and solo shows at NC-arte in Bogotá (2018) and Galerie Imane Farès in Paris (2017).

For her fist solo exhibition in Paris, Between Dig and Display, Farid interpreted a selection of documentation images found in the storage basement of the never-completed Kuwait National Museum. The disparate images, a mixture of ancient and recent artifacts, demonstrate a  society’s struggle to articulate it’s own history: pearl sieves, the severed head of a clay figurine, wooden sandals, broken glass, potsherds, garments, a camel head trapping, the capital of a column and walls from a nearby excavated fort are among the items documented. In some of the images neither site nor object is apparent. In others, a black and white rod set alongside unearthed matter provides viewers with a sense of scale. Not far from the images, piles of plastic bags filled with fragments from previous civilizations lie in wait, unearthed and yet unexposed. Stranded between archeological site and museum, like spirits caught between worlds, the images and objects residing in the basement of the Kuwait National Museum are less a record of the Nation’s aspirations than evidence of its unreconciled values. What is the meaning of display in an aniconic society? Seemingly disjointed, the objects in this exhibition assemble a precarious universe that oscillates between record and invention, self portrait and state narrative.

More information on the Gwangju Biennale can be found here.

Alia Farid’s website can be found here.