al Mawrid is a global nexus for research on the visual arts. It is building an archival resource for scholarship on the region and a structure for international collaboration in the form of conferences, colloquia, residencies, and the research fellowship program offered by the NYUAD Institute. The core of al Marwid is the Arab Art Archive and its attendant program of historiographic research, with the Akkasah Photography Archive and Haraka: Experimental Lab for Art and Social Thought positioned alongside it as connected archival and research programs that explore the wider discursive field surrounding art in the directions of photography and theory.
The Arab Art Archive builds upon an initiative led by Salwa Mikdadi in the mid-1980s, under the name of ICWA/Cultural & Visual Art Resource, to archive and study the art of the Arab world. That initiative involved documenting artists’ responses to a range of social, political and environmental issues, notably wars in Lebanon and Iraq, and the field research it entailed resulted in the creation of an artist-database, audio and video interviews, and publications now housed in the Salwa Mikdadi Papers at the NYU Library.
Renewing that earlier archival project within the context of a global research university, the Arab Art Archive seeks not only to consolidate the documentary record in a digital resource available to students and scholars worldwide, but also to use that record to develop new historiographic frameworks that move beyond established paradigms in the discipline of art history. To this end, al Mawrid pairs the construction of a digital archive with a range of endeavors, both scholarly and artistic, to identify new categories of analysis and interpretation that re-frame the history of modern art both regionally and globally.
Approaching the artwork in terms of the image more broadly, al Mawrid absorbs a pre-existing archive of photography founded by Shamoon Zamir at NYU Abu Dhabi in 2014. The Akkasah Photography Archive is home to an archive of the photographic heritage of the Arab world and the wider region, with a focus on the UAE and the Gulf. It is dedicated to documenting and preserving the diverse histories and practices of photography from the region, with a growing collection that houses over 33,000 images at present. Akkasah undertakes and supports research on photography in the region, as well as on cross-cultural and transnational aspects of photography, through conferences, colloquia and publications.
Art and photography are themselves records of the historical experiences that shaped them. In order to access that record, and open a fresh perspective on the societies and cultures of the Arab world, al Mawrid is developing tools that explore the visual arts as a locally-grounded site of knowledge production. Led by May Al-Dabbagh, Haraka: Experimental Lab for Arab Art and Social Thought bridges the arts and social sciences to investigate the ideas, interpersonal engagements, cultural production, and knowledge flows emerging from the region to support alternative modes of knowledge production and pedagogy about the Arab region’s societies and history.
Drawing upon new understandings of Arab and global social thought, this cluster is composed of three projects: Tracing Migrations, a research project which documents the lives, careers, and contributions of artists in the Gulf/Khaleej region; Teaching Global Social Theory, a pedagogy project that reworks the “centers and peripheries” of social theory; and Plurilogue Talks, a mobile conversational platform based on engaging artists and social scientists working on the region in Arabic and English.