Latest technology helping to put Saudi art under global spotlight | Arab News

2022-12-08 12:32:57 By : Mr. Vincent Zhang

RIYADH: Technology and traditional practices are being combined to help raise the profile of Saudi art on the global stage.

With the assistance of an immersive experience design company, artists taking part in major events being held in the Kingdom are using augmented, virtual, and mixed reality techniques to display their works.

Jeddah-based Midwam has been working to promote public- and private-sector brands at festivals including Noor Riyadh, MDLBEAST, and the AlUla Dates Festival.

AN Photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub

Khalid Al-Muawad, co-founder and chief executive officer of Midwam, told Arab News: “We basically look at the entire scene and take it from a human-centric approach, and look at what can attract and engage a person toward that industry.”

In its collaboration with Noor Riyadh, the company worked with four Saudi artists to apply a hi-tech perspective to their creations.

Mohammed Al-Sanie, a contributing artist and senior member of Midwam’s production department, told Arab News: “In our line of business, or even when working with artists, we usually consider technology as an enabler or as a tool. It shouldn’t be the star of what we’re doing, it should be a tool that we utilize.”

AN Photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub

A new-media artist, Al-Sanie’s work is mainly influenced by the 1980s, retro science fiction, and the synthwave electronic music genre, and aims to explain the present and future through the past.

One of his pieces, “Dreams in Color,” is an outdoor LED installation presenting an alternative version of Riyadh via video loops displayed on a screen framed by wood, cladding, and Styrofoam scaffolding.

• Jeddah-based Midwam has been working to promote public- and private-sector brands at festivals including Noor Riyadh, MDLBEAST, and the AlUla Dates Festival.

• In its collaboration with Noor Riyadh, the company worked with four Saudi artists to apply a hi-tech perspective to their creations

He said: “It’s retro style aesthetics, so what immediately came to my mind was CRT (cathode-ray tube) TV, which many people may remember their grandparents having. I came up with the idea of building a sculpture of a TV, with the screens of the TV being from the modern era, blending new technology with the old.”

His idea was based on the black-and-white television sets of the 1950s and 1960s, with a reimagination of the future in a rendered 3-D world composed of warm hues and neon accents.

“The title for the piece, ‘Dreams in Color,’ is me attempting to influence people’s dreams in a positive, happy, surreal, and imaginative way, based on that info,” Al-Sanie added.

Under the theme, “We Dream of New Horizons,” the Noor Riyadh festival looked to champion the innovation of light through various mediums.

Mohammad Alfaraj’s piece ‘With Light, I Create A Hand of Love, and Extend It To You,’ comprises a screen and a camera set up in an outdoor location, nothing occurs until audience members take out their phones, using the light emitted from them as brushes with which to paint in the air. (Supplied by Riyadh Art)

Al-Sanie said his work was designed to create a balance between the digital and physical, comparing the old and new Riyadh through a retro-futurist depiction.

Midwam has also linked up with other artists on developing content and storyboarding the experience.

As part of the Saudi Art Council’s 21,39 initiative, the firm worked with Marwah Al-Mugait on creating a performance of 3-D video-projection mapping.

Al-Muawad said: “You need to keep the guidelines of that art into perspective when you’re creating that experience. They’re extremely precise and detailed about how the journey of that experience is going to be.”

Mohammed Al-Hamdan presents his ‘Walking Lights’ interactive streetlight installation on the sidewalk of Riyadh’s Olaya Street that functions by sensing the motion of passing pedestrians and translating it into an immersive experience of light and sound. (Supplied by Riyadh Art)

For multimedia artist Daniah Al-Saleh’s Noor Riyadh work, Midwam sketched, visualized, and helped map her video pieces. It explored the resistance to public displays of love and affection in conservative societies through social commentary.

Multiple AI-generated fake figures were projected onto pillars, lip syncing to 26 famous Arab love songs in declaration of their love in a public space.

Al-Saleh told Arab News: “Midwam was responsible for the production of my work, ‘Love Stories,’ in Oud Square. They were assigned to me because my work had a little bit of mapping, and they were really hands-on. We had many meetings until they understood exactly what I wanted.”

The company also worked with artists Mohammed Al-Faraj, whose “With Light I Create a Hand of Love and Extend it to You” piece required audience participation using mobile phones, and Mohammed Al-Hamdan on presenting his “Walking Lights” interactive streetlight installation activated by pedestrian movements.

Tapping into the art scene through their work was key for the company to build on public art initiatives, impact communities, and humanize environmental issues, in an effort to place Saudi Arabia on a global platform.

“All of these are considered soft power elements. When there’s a specific perspective on a population or country that’s completely limited to a certain area, art comes in and that completely changes,” Al-Muawad added.

Al-Sanie said: “The artist brings their narrative to the art piece. Additionally, the visitor or the observer brings their own perception; it’s an invisible conversation between the creator and the viewer.”

RIYADH: Monetary conditions in Saudi Arabia are reassuring, thanks to prudent monetary policies, and the country’s banking sector continues to enjoy good levels of liquidity, the governor of the Saudi Central Bank said on Wednesday.

Fahad Almubarak said the bank would continue to manage its foreign-exchange reserves based on “balanced investment policies.”

He added: “Despite the exceptional circumstances in the Kingdom and the world, the Saudi economy … has proven a high ability to withstand shocks. Monetary conditions in the Kingdom are reassuring as a result of the central bank’s prudent monetary policy.”

Almubarak commended the banking sector for “its financial solvency, operational efficiency, good liquidity, and ability to face current challenges.”

His comments followed the approval of the state budget for the coming fiscal year, which forecasts a surplus of SR16 billion ($4.3 billion) and gross domestic product growth of 3.1 percent, the finance ministry said.

During a media briefing in Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the predicted surplus reflects prior investments the Kingdom made in its oil and gas sector, as well as growth in non-oil sectors as officials implement the country’s Vision 2030 agenda for economic diversification.

“We invested a lot of money when people did not,” he said, according to AFP. “We are not celebrating the surplus; for us it’s not really big news, it’s something that we expected. We’ve been working … to curtail our spending, to increase our non-oil revenues.”

He added that “difficult decisions” that were taken are unlikely to be reversed based on a surplus this year and the expected surplus next year.

“The last thing we want is actually to change policies in haste,” he said.

The surplus will be distributed during the first quarter of 2023, with the bulk of it being used to increase the Kingdom’s reserves, Al-Jadaan said. Some will go to the National Development Fund and some “may be” transferred to the sovereign wealth fund, he added. He also said that the 2023 budget forecasts SR259 billion of military spending, according to Reuters.

“We listened to the blessing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of announcing the budget in the cabinet session, which took into account the rapid growth that the Kingdom has been witnessing and the achievement of many targets under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said in comments broadcast on Al-Ekhbariya TV.

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met Director General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization Mohamed Ould Amar in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of the Saudi minister’s bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of Arab Culture Ministers, which was held in the Saudi capital and organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with ALECSO.

During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and ALECSO to enhance cultural cooperation through a range of items, including registering natural sites and heritage elements in UNESCO lists.  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday participated in the work of the 154th session of the preparatory ministerial council for the 43rd session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was held at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh. The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who is also president of the council’s current session, with the participation of Gulf foreign ministers, and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf. During the meeting, the ministers discussed ways of enhancing the process of joint cooperation and coordination between the GCC countries, and the developments of the situation in the region. They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the schedule of the work of the Chinese-Gulf Summit for Cooperation and Development that will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and GCC leaders.