421 Announces Recipients of Its Capacity Building Programs 2023-24

Selected participants in the Curatorial Development Program, Artistic Research Grant, and Homebound Residency Program include 15 artists and collectives from the MENASA region exploring critical issues related to human engagement with the environment 

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We are pleased to announce the selected participants in our capacity building programs for the year 2023-24. The programs, which include the Curatorial Development Program, the Artistic Research Grant, and Homebound Residency, will give 15 artists and collectives from across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia special grants, financial resources, and professional support to work on the development of new research projects that explore critical issues related to human engagement with the environment. 


The recipients include Ritika Biswas, Paribartana Mohanty, and Lina Ramadan for its Curatorial Development Program 2023, and Yasamin GhalehnoieSaba KhanLujaine Rizk, Aarti Sunder, Asim Waqif, and Lantian Xie for the Artistic Research Grant 2023-24, and artists Yara Al Asmar, Salem AlSuwaidiWalid Al WawiChahine Fellahi and Kais Aiouch (Kimia Collective)، Roger Mokbel، Pratyush Pushkar and Riya Raagini (Bariya) for the Homebound Residency Program 2023. 


The 421 capacity building programs support artists and creative practitioners who have a sustained artistic practice or interest in creative disciplines. Often involving juries made up of locally and regionally based arts professionals, as well as pedagogical partners that contribute to the curricula, the capacity building programs function as a launching pad for the career development of young and emerging practitioners. Those programs are open to participation of students, recent graduates and early-career practitioners interested in visual arts, design and architecture, film, new media, literary arts and performance.


Curatorial Development Program 2023


The Curatorial Development Program emphasizes the professional and creative development of emerging and early-career curators. Supported by the 421 team and an expert pedagogical partner, the program supports emerging local and regional curators who are given the space to hone their practice holistically and to build a well-rounded skill-set that aids them in crafting each facet of a successful exhibition.


The program features a hybrid of practical and theoretical pedagogical structure that pushes for the understanding of spatial and operational decisions not as secondary to the exhibition’s curatorial concepts, but rather as equally essential to the exhibition’s content, a reflection of and a tool for the curatorial premise to be further explored.

Ritika Biswas, Paribartana Mohanty, and Lina Ramadan were selected as participants in the 2023 iteration of the Curatorial Development Program. Organized in partnership with the Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR), the Curatorial Development Program provides curators with mentorship, guidance, and support to advance their careers and produce major curatorial and/or research projects. Their participation in this cycle of the program will culminate in two major group exhibitions and a publication that will be presented as part of 421’s Fall 2023 Program.  


Ritika Biswas will curate a group exhibition which produces encounters with human and non-human extinctions. This exhibition incorporates works from emerging and established artists, writers, poets, thinkers, filmmakers, activists, and researchers from East, South, and Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as from other geo-social spaces, who inhabit and interrogate various forms of anxiety and excess emerging from climate and its related crises, in their practices across diverse media, including multi-channel video, soundscapes, and multi-media installation.


Paribartana Mohanty will curate a group exhibition which is a constellation of propositions, speculations, and readings about the present climate crisis, where artists and practitioners from the ‘Global South’ respond to their immediate sociocultural, political, and environmental challenges. The curator wants to navigate these intensities through interactive works that engage Abu Dhabi audiences beyond witnessing to initiate conversations.


Lina Ramadan will edit and produce a curatorial publication that is based on her research on Bayan al-Madrasa al-Kristaliyya, (The Crystal Manifesto), which is a declaration published by the Crystalist School in 1976 in Khartoum, Sudan, by a group comprised of artists Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq, Muhammad Hamid Shaddad, Naiyla al-Tayib, Hisham Abdallah, and Hashim Ibrahim, delivering aesthetic and philosophy commentary on themes such as time, knowledge, the measurement of space, language, and critiques modes of art-making within growing “universal” discourse. Ramadan’s publication will present artistic interventions and essays by early-career and emerging artists and researchers from MENSA region, and beyond who critically use image-making and text as means to understand possible ways of understanding ecological change. The experimental book aims to reflect on contemporary artistic tendencies and put notions such as land knowledge, environmental degradation, madness, and apocalypse(s) in dialogue. The contributors will take the Crystalist Manifesto as a point of departure and extend beyond it to examine how they articulate subjects related to Anthropocene.


Artistic Research Grant 2023-24 


The Artistic Research Grant fosters practice-based research that investigates contemporary social questions through interdisciplinary methodologies and active engagement with the researcher’s community. Open to local and regional early-to-mid career creative practitioners, the program gives grantees the opportunity to focus on the research process and encourages them to experiment with new research methods. The program is designed to promote exploration, experimentation, and wider dissemination of knowledge within the arts community.


Yasamin Ghalehnoie, Saba Khan, Lujaine Rizk, Aarti Sunder, Asim Waqif, and Lantian Xie  were selected for the grant, which will culminate in a series of publications that present each recipients’ research findings and process. Together, the artists will be exploring the following themes: ecological issues, rural communities, environmental change, social evolution, traditional crafts, ecology, natural resources, and human engagement with the environment. The Artistic Research Grant projects will be presented in a series of artist books that will be published in 2024 and that will focus on the processes and outcomes resulting from the grant. 

Homebound Residency Program 2023 


421’s Homebound Residency Program supports creative practitioners to produce new works and explore community engagement in their practices while working remotely. The six-month-long online residency challenges creative practitioners to think deeply about connection, communication, and multidimensional interaction with each other and their communities, as well as the various ways in which we reside in urban spaces and the digital realm. Yara Al Asmar, Salem AlSuwaidi, Walid Al Wawi, Chahine Fellahi and Kais Aiouch (Kimia Collective), Roger Mokbel, and Pratyush Pushkar and Riya Raagini (Bariya) were selected as participants in the program. Sara bint Safwan, the inaugural recipient of the Curatorial Development Program in 2020, is the interlocutor of this year’s Homebound Residency, and will support the artists throughout the program in the development of their projects. 

About the artists


Ritika Biswas holds a Liberal Arts degree from Yale-NUS College, Singapore, and an MPhil in Film and Screen Studies from the University of Cambridge. She was a curator and special projects producer at New Art Exchange, Nottingham in the UK, and Artistic Director for the 2021 Sea Art Festival for the Busan Biennale, and Co-Curator of the fifth iteration of Museum Without Walls (2021) for the British Council. Currently working on experimental virtual art platforms, non-human ecologies, and decolonial digital strategies, her practice exists at the nexus of deep research, eco-critical play, collaborative kinships, and justice, particularly within the Global South.


Paribartana Mohanty is a visual artist and storyteller based in Delhi. He pursued Master’s degree in History of Art from National Museum Institute, New Delhi (2006), and holds a Bachelors in Fine Art from Dhauli College of Art and craft, Bhubaneswar (2004). Paribartana has received several fellowships, awards and residencies including nomination for Asia’s leading award for Media Artists – 4th VH award and online residency at EyeBeam, He has worked as one of the curators for Kochi Students’ Biennale, as part of Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016. He is also part of artist collective WALA, and organizes meetings, gatherings, and public performances and guided tours. Paribartana had his 2nd solo exhibition ‘Trees are Stranger Than Aliens in the Movies’ at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2018. His videos, paintings and installations have been exhibited in many group exhibitions, film festivals, seminars and symposiums.


Lina Ramadan is a curator and researcher. Her work investigates topics on Feminism and Nationalism in post-colonial MENA, looking at artistic and literary productions within institutional models. Ramadan was Assistant Curator at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha between 2016-2021 and is currently curatorial consultant at the museum. She holds a Master’s degree from University College London: 2016, and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Qatar University, 2014. She’s a PhD Candidate in Philosophy; Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her doctoral research traces Arab artist's movements and histories through rethinking feminist readings of art and modernity.


Yasamin Ghalehnoie makes videos, and facilitates alternative pedagogies. Developed through field studies and slow, collaborative, trans-local processes, Yasamin's research fosters informal economies, non-uniformity, and collective reproduction of resting and the commons. Thinking with interconnected islands, Yasamin searches the conditions through which long-term collaborations and transnational alliances could be materialized and sustained towards restorative forms of care. Yasamin holds an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, and lives between the UK and Iran.


Saba Khan is a visual artist based in London and Lahore. Her multimedia works shape around the visuals of memorial, monuments, water bodies and expeditions. Her recent work is about water bodies restructured through large scale infrastructure and bureaucratic decision making. She founded an artist-run-space Murree Museum Artist Residency, the satirical collective Pak Khawateen Painting Club and taught at the National College of Arts, Lahore. 


Lujaine Rizk's work explores materials and making to produce alternative cultural design and architecture practices. In her work, she observes the natural creations of spontaneous and informal communities in public places as a means to reclaim and belong. This interest in investigating and responding to contextual space, place, community and culture has become the heart of her practice and work. Her work appeared in Design Days Dubai, Tashkeel, Amman Design Week, Dubai Design Week and Abwab.


Aarti Sunder, a founding member of the artist-run publishing platform "ppppress" at MIT. Her interests lie in exploring the fictions that arise from examining situated experiences and their relationship with technology. Sunder's work explores contemporary labor practices, protest, myth, and digital-terrestrial play, all conveyed through a conversational mode. 


Asim Waqif's sculptures have always been rooted in materials which assert their presence even before the work's meaning or message is conveyed. Through the combination of natural and industrial materials, his sculptures force viewers to confront pressing societal issues, reflecting a time when civilization may be spiraling out of control. Waqif's installations explore the local context and involve an archaeological fascination considering how cities manage their ecological environment. His work emphasizes upcycling - transforming unwanted products into new materials of higher quality and environmental value. Waqif is interested in an object's context, history, and narrative and invites viewers to interact with and even take his works.


Lantian Xie makes images, objects, concepts, jazz bands, motorcycles, and parties. Previous exhibitions include 57th Venice Biennial, 11th Shanghai Biennial, 3rd Kochi-Muziris Biennial, 14th Sharjah Biennial, 7th Yokohama Triennale


Yara Al Asmar is a versatile artist who creates unique compositions using toys and instruments, including music, video art, and puppetry. In her short film Mr Samuel's Teatime Stories for Good Kids & Confused Adults, she explores a strange universe set in the fake walls of an old abandoned children's TV show. Her music works, including "Home Recordings" and "In the evening there is blinding radiance (and in the morning there is nothing)" showcase her experimental approach. She recently completed a residency in the Black Forest, Germany, and will present two sound installations and a performance at Global Forest's Vogelklang Soundcamp in May 2023.


Salem AlSuwaidi is an Emirati writer and curator from Abu Dhabi. He is also the Founder of SWALIF, an art and literature project-based collective for youth in the Khaleej. Salem completed a degree in Politics and Geography from King's College London and is interested in discussions on nationalism, cultural hegemony, and post-structural development. He regularly curates group exhibitions and public programming across the UAE. Currently, Salem works as a strategy consultant and aspires to become an academic in Middle Eastern political art and urban studies.


Walid Al Wawi has more than a decade of engagement in the SWANA region, working in painting, performance, video and installation. He received critical acclaim for his academic and purest approach to objects and physical documentation that communicate with the political and cultural identity of the Palestinian body in diaspora, and its implication on the post colonialist dream of pan Arabism and vice versa. Al Wawi’s artistic and academic practice has been welcomed by leading institutes and spaces such as Darat Al Funun, Jameel Arts Center, The Tate Exchange, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art South Korea, FIAC Art Fair and many more. His most recent undertaking is the founding of the regionally pioneering grassroots initiative, Samt for Arts and Research, whose mission centers around challenging the political economy and institutional hierarchy of the art system. In  2022, he expanded on Samt’s mission with the creation of Samt Alternative Art School (SAAS); an experimental rethinking of creative methodologies structured around themes of indigenous wisdom and holistic wellness. 


Kimia Collective was formed by visual artist and filmmaker Chahine Fellahi and architect and photographer Kaïs Aïouch. Their works ranged from experimental film and photography to installations, employing their different creative backgrounds to create spaces for interdisciplinary dialogue. Their joint practice is investigative and ritualistic in nature, often drawing on critical research and experimentation with different materials and image-making processes to explore questions related to ecology, colonial history and the politics of archives. Working across digital and analogue processes, they harness film and photography as tools to generate new ways of uncovering past and present histories which are marginalized, neglected or forgotten. Exploring the peri-urban region of their hometown, Casablanca, they developed, over the past years several projects documenting the invisible margins of the city and the transformations which affect its local landscape. 


Roger Mokbel is a former biotechnology engineer turned photographer, using his visual works to advocate for social justice. He explores the intersection between personal and collective perspectives and often addresses societal and environmental concerns through the lens of human psychology. His projects have received recognition and awards, including the Photography Prize by the Boghossian Foundation for his first project, Describe the sky to me and an exhibition at the Festival International des Arts de Bordeaux for his second project And then, they just left. Mokbel is also a member of Collectif 1200, a collective of Lebanese photographers and visual artists.

Pratyush Pushkar and Riya Raagini (Bariya), Bariya is a transdisciplinary artist duo from New Delhi, India. Their practice seeds itself as poetry in meditation, synthesizing and reconciling through the digital tactility, affinity and politics of sounds, images, philosophy, and language, aiming to examine and host alternative forms of cognition, spirituality and resolve, in a background of decolonial service, non-cooperation and care. Their work has recently been exhibited, broadcasted, and published at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Germany (2022), Thyssen Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid (2021), Prospect Art, Los Angeles (2022), Sadaneera (2020), Andalusian Centre for Contemporary Creation, Spain (2023), Audioblast Festival, France (2023) City Museum of Ljubljana, Slovenia (2021), Acoustic Commons - As If Radio (2021), Tsonami Arte Sonoro, Chile (2021), Radhiophrenia - Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow (2022), Future Nostalgia FM - Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany (2022), Wrong Biennale (2021-22), and Festival Sur Aural (2021) among others.