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Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennial presents Muhannad Shono in conversation with Reem Fadda

January 24, 2023

Muhannad Shono, a multidisciplinary artist, will speak with Reem Fadda, the Curator of Saudi Arabia's 2022 National Pavilion, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, at Bayt Zainal in Jeddah's Al Balad.

The event takes occur in conjunction with the city’s inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale. Shono’s gigantic installation The Teaching Tree was commissioned to represent Saudi Arabia’s National Pavilion at the 59th International Venice Biennale in 2022.

The gathering will commemorate the Biennale’s triumphant conclusion as a recent key milestone in Shono’s developing career. The artist will discuss the ideas underlying this significant Biennale commission, as well as the overarching themes of Shono’s practice, with the pavilion’s Curator and catalogue contributor, Reem Fadda, and with an introduction by Rotana Shaker, the pavilion’s Assistant Curator and catalogue coordinator and contributor.

The catalogue, which is beautifully illustrated with pictures of the artwork in situ, provides extensive context for The Teaching Tree and the artist’s practice through texts that include essays, interviews, and a fictional narrative piece. The catalogue contains texts written by key Saudi and international contributors from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, reflecting the collaborative nature of Shono’s approach to making and providing readers with a sense of the deeply rooted community that is an integral value to the artist and his work.

The contributions to the catalogue are detailed below.

The Teaching Tree catalogue is introduced by His Highness Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Culture; and Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, Commissioner of the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at La Biennale di Venezia.

An opening curatorial essay by the pavilion’s curatorial team, Reem Fadda and Rotana Shaker, addresses the importance of recurring motifs and themes in Shono’s practice such as the drawn line, the colour black, and technology.

In conversation with artist, curator and writer Sara Raza, Shono delves into his use of the metaphor of the garden, utilising its potential for both utopian and dystopian interpretation.

An essay by curator and writer, Nat Muller examines The Teaching Tree’s effect on viewers, postulating that the installation’s ‘monstrous sensibilities’ convey strangeness and transformation, allowing viewers to envision brand new possibilities.

Noah Feehan, artist and roboticist, who collaborated on the artwork, gives insight into the design of the installation’s movement.

A fictional narrative by researcher and cultural project manager Hafsa Alkhudairi follows a character whose story parallels Shono’s own journey with creativity and struggle for agency.

Commissioned by the Visual Arts Commission, The Teaching Tree, a large-scale and ambitious installation made of painted black palm fronds, was created by Shono as a symbol of the power of the drawn line as an elemental expression of creativity, as well as an exploration of the propensity of the imagination to flourish. The 40-metre-long, organically shaped structure was animated by pneumatics, appearing to rhythmically breathe, and speaks to the drawn line’s potential for both creation and destruction.