A stopover at Tashkeel
the place for creation and interaction
A former supermarket turned into a site for research and making art where young artists get to contemplate their respective aesthetic goal amidst an ambience of cross-cultural exchanges, Tashkeel is tucked away in a sleepy neighbourhood on the outskirts of Dubai. The official web site declares that the organization is committed to facilitate art and design practice, cross-cultural dialogue and creative exchange. If this is where artists of different nationalities living in Dubai get to materialize their projects before they are freighted into major venues in town and across the world, it is also where applied art assumes high art aspirations.
Etymologically 'Tashkeel' is derived from the word fen-tashkeely, which is the Arabic for fine art. Tashkeel also means 'variety', which aptly captures the spirit of the organization.
Tashkeel engages the artists on multiple levels only to deepen their understanding of the current praxis around the globe. It boasts of programmes and projects that are informed by the essential aspects of today's art-making – the context of creation aided by a multiplicity of mediums and knowledge sources. The talks, the seminars provide an opportunity for the participants to traverse a wide range of discourses while the library brings together resources from across the globe to stimulate the young minds.
Established in January 2008, Tashkeel as 'an independent resource for artists and designers living and working in the United Arab Emirates' has a track record that speaks volumes about the relevance of their undertakings in the context of the changing art scene of the Middle East. Tashkeel manager Jill Hoyle reflects on the ethos that motors the organization: 'We started form the idea of providing spaces for them to work in and the studios are the components that came first while the others followed suit. As our primary aim is to support and promote artists who are living in the UAE, regardless of nationality, regardless of age, anybody over the age of eighteen is eligible. Here, we are hoping to encourage artists to make the best use of the available resources.'
The building with a neo-Islamic façade gives a misleading impression of what it contains within. After touring through the exhibition space, the studios and the library area, it becomes apparent how the wonderfully laid out niches have come to serve multiple purposes, moreover, what looks small from outside seems roomier.
'It has become almost a natural process for the students after graduation to come to Tashkeel and continue with their practice – that is how the convergence of young talents has been made possible,' opines Jill Hoyle, who hastens to add that it is a place to gain new skills as there are workshops for each discipline so that artists can learn new skills to introduce to their work. The studios are laid out in a manner that makes is possible for artists from one discipline to easily cross over to the other so that there are a lot of interactions. 'Interdisciplinarity has been a natural evolution,' says Jill, adding also in the same vein, 'knowledge is an important part of Tashkeel, we ensure that they are not working in isolation.'
The library subscribes to magazines that matter in today's globalized art practice and has an array of books on the contemporary arts that mostly hinge on interdisciplinarity which has become all the rage in this era of overproduction. While experts fear that Dubai is obsessively focused on art market alongside tourism as the most lucrative industry, Jill believes that the drift here at Tashkeel is towards art creation rather than art marketing.
At Tashkeel artists work on membership basis. 'We accept artists who have the ability to continue with their work in studio environment, and we welcome artists with contemporary language,' says Jill. A panel is responsible for delivering the final decision on selecting artists for the exhibition spaces at Tashkeel.
Shaikha Latifa Al Maktoum who decided to embark on this project had once explained her reason behind Tashkeel to Lubna Al Midfa of City Times: 'The idea started from working with artists and designers in Dubai and seeing that there is a lack of places where they can actually go and work. Especially after graduating, you may no longer have that environment where artists can exchange ideas and get feedback.'
Tashkeel was previously a college and served as the satellite campus of Zayed University and Jill Hoyle was a liaison between the college and the university. When the authority wanted to close this college they expressed a desire to use the facilities as resource for artists. Jill, with her background in fashion and textile, was invited to be at the helm. She admits, 'This has been an interesting journey'. Living in Dubai for sixteen years, she proudly pronounces, 'I have been here for so long, I feel this is my home.’
- DEPART DESK
Photos courtesy: Tashkeel.