Photos by Makeen Osman
The all-night Twin Cities art festival Northern Spark returns once again with the theme of climate, this year running all along the Green Line. At one end Mizna and The Soap Factory will present a mesmerizing 10-foot-round sculpture by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, who’s featured in Mizna’s recent environment-themed journal issue with a spotlight on her first Alien Technology piece in Dubai.
‘Alien Technology’ II is a new frontier for Mizna, undertaken locally with fabrication by specialist craftsman Trever Nicholas and a long-term exhibition after the festival at co-presenter The Soap Factory.
The project will start out at this year’s Northern Spark Arts Festival from June 10th sunset to June 11th sunrise. During the festival the piece will be located at The Commons Park by U.S. Bank Stadium, 425 Portland Ave S, Minneapolis, Mn 55415. After the festival the piece will be relocated outside of The Soap Factory (514 2nd St SE, Minneapolis 55414) until mid to late next year.
About the Project
“Big oil”–images of faceless corporations, drilling operations in far-flung territories, pipelines and spills, the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf, global industries, limited resources. But this sublimely out-of-proportion sculpture of an oil drill bit alludes to much more. Come step into its monolithic orbit; conjure its multiple meanings through a close encounter.
Alien Technology II is Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri’s second large-scale piece about the Gulf’s- and her own family’s- pearl diving past, the massive oil industry that displaced it, and their shared environments, narratives and aesthetics–pearls and oil are two rare, uniquely iridescent materials. Their physical and geographic overlaps suggest deeper entwinements the artist draws us to explore.
The Gulf pearl industry is invisible to most, a forgotten history after the economic transformation triggered by oil. But for possibly 2,000 years previous, the coastal Gulf economy was largely based on pearls. Pearl diving, trading, even pearl music: culture founded on a coveted resource, like oil.
With entrancing colors and strange appendages, Al Qadiri’s giant shimmering drill bit also evokes bioluminescent marine life, or some futuristic organic machine–alien technology, forged here through a history of pearls, an era of oil, and an environmental future open and unknown.
About the Artist
Monira Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle-East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as their legacies of corruption. She is also part of the artist collective GCC. www.moniraalqadiri.com
Mizna, founded in the Twin Cities nearly 20 years ago, publishes the biannual lit journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America, the only publication of its kind. Mizna also produces the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, one of the largest and oldest in the country, offers Arabic and drumming classes and workshops, and presents other multidisciplinary art projects and community events involving a diverse range of local, national, and international Arab artists and thinkers. More at www.mizna.org
About Northern Spark
From sunset on June 10 to sunrise on June 11, Northern Spark 2017 is a free all-night art festival exploring the effects of climate change through participatory projects happening in neighborhoods along Metro Transit’s Green Line, connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. Experience the largest Northern Spark yet, with nearly 70 art projects organized around neighborhood nodes: Cedar Riverside/West Bank, Weisman Art Museum/East Bank, Little Africa/Snelling, Rondo/Lexington, and Little Mekong/ Western. In downtown Minneapolis the festival moves from its usual river location to The Commons, the new green space at Portland and 5th, and culminates in Saint Paul at Union Depot, the Green Line terminus in Lowertown.
Since 2011 thousands of Minnesotans and visitors have enjoyed Northern Spark, an annual all-night arts festival illuminating public spaces and streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul with video projections, temporary installations and experimental performances. Northern Spark is produced by Northern Lights.mn, a Twin Cities arts organization whose work ranges from large-scale public art platforms like Northern Spark to Art(ists) On the Verge, a yearlong mentorship program for 5 emerging artists working with innovative uses of technology. They support artists in the creation and presentation of art in the public sphere, such as at St. Paul’s Union Depot (Amateur Intelligence Radio), “choir karaoke” at the Minnesota State Fair (Giant Sing Along) and most recently Words For Winter, programming poetry into the construction landscape along Nicollet Mall. Through projects such as Ruination: City of Dust, a location-based environmental mystery game played on bicycles along Minnehaha Creek, and the monthly climate conversation series, Anthropocene Awareness Association, their work helps audiences explore expanded possibilities for civic engagement through art. www.2017.northernspark.org