I caught up with young Dubai-based artist and designer Hadeyeh Badri to ask her about the ‘Design House’ project she co-curated with Hala Al-Ani in House 53 at Sikka Art Fair in March this year. Their house was one of the highlights of this annual event that showcases local Emirati and Dubai-based art talent during Art Dubai in the beautiful courtyards and houses of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
Could you tell me about the founding of Mobius Design Studio and what your ambitions are?
The studio originated from the need to produce design that is dictated by process. Möbius was founded in 2010, shorlty after we (Hadeyeh Badri, Hala Al-Ani and Riem Hassan) graduated from the American University of Sharjah. We were unhappy with the fact that getting a stable job meant that we had to address design as a mechanical process devoid of consideration for form or substance. Starting our own practice meant there was less of a compromise when it came to producing thoughtful work. As of the moment, our goals is to balance studio initiated research and commissioned work.
Where did you get the inspiration for House 53?
How long did it take to plan and organise?
The idea for ‘Design House’ came about when a call for proposals was released by SIKKA2013. Hala and I quickly realised that to showcase the work we wanted to propose in an art fair, we needed to create a context for design. As a result, we put together a group of designers that we thought would offer a diverse range of processes and submitted their proposals under ‘Design House’. The whole process of editing proposals, following up with the progression of the work, creating visuals and a brand, etc... took two months in total.
Could you tell me about the artists and designers you invited to participate in the project and the displays and installations they created for the rooms you assigned them in House 53?
Please see attached documents for project summaries and participant bios.
Could you tell me about the workshops you organised in the house?
Do you feel these filled a gap in the art and design training available in Dubai?
The workshops put together aimed to introduce aspects of the process behind works exhibited in House 53. Because these workshops were very short time-wise, they did not aim to fill gaps in the training available in Dubai, however, they aimed to provide participants with possibilities and various ways to approach their own projects. Furthermore, the workshops were all free of charge because we intended for them to be accessible to anyone who is eager to learn.
Could you tell me a little about the context of Sikka, now in its third year?
How was the atmosphere this year?
March is art month in Dubai where three fairs (Art Dubai, Design Days, SIKKA) commence simultaneously. SIKKA is our favorite partly because it is situated in one of Dubai’s oldest neighborhoods where people from all walks of life come together to walk, go to the souq, visit the temple, go for a boat ride by the creek, eat traditional food, etc... During the span of the fair, we were given a spacious house with a courtyard to exhibit and carry our workshops out in. The old residents of this house came for a visit and spoke to us about their stories from fifty years ago. You rarely come across such opportunities to converse with people this way.
The main reason why we think SIKKA is successful is because it is – as the SIKKA team describe it – a fair from the people for the people. Projects are funded based on proposals and it is then up to the participants to take the work as far as they can.
Were you pleased with the public response to House 53?
Would you like to do something similar again in the future?
The public was very positive about their experience in Design House. Workshop participants inquired about the possibilities of joining more workshops in the future. We are currently in the process of planning next year’s ‘Design House’. We would like to include more designers through an open call. There are alot of debates about encouraging more site specific work and more research based publications. Of course, the new line of workshops will be dictated by the exhibited works.
What was the most important thing you got from the experience of curating House 53? Was there anything you would do different in the future?
Any opportunity to come together with a group of like-minded designers emphasises the importance of discourse and how sharing your process helps everyone evolve. The most difficult aspect about curating House 53 was that there was a small team of two (Hala and I) juggling so much. Simple things such as printing vinyl labels, designing and printing giveaways, designing visuals, updating social media all demanded so much energy. For next year, the particular detail we would change is the time frame. We plan to start much earlier than the release of SIKKA2014’s call for proposals; that way there is more time for designers to develop their projects, and more time for us to organise, provide mentoring sessions, create visuals, publicise, etc... Not to mention, we also had (and will have) works to produce ourselves for the exhibition!