421 Presents Winter 2023 Program: RE/COLLECT THIS Featuring Four Major Exhibitions and Over Twenty Public Programs Investigating Contemporary Modes of Memory-Making


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Hedeyeh Badri. "I Wanted To Be A Mother", 2019. Textile; Jacquard-woven cotton, wool and acrylic. Dimensions variable. Photo: Hedeyeh Badri. Courtesy of the artist


421 presents its Winter 2023 Program: RE/COLLECT THIS. Running from January 15 to March 21, the season features four major exhibitions and over twenty workshops, talks, and special events that explore contemporary modes of memory-making. Opening on February 5, the winter exhibitions include And The Mirrors Are Many, a group exhibition curated by Mona Al-Jadir that is the result of the 421 Curatorial Development Program, and Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions, the first solo exhibition for artist Mahshid Rafiei who is the inaugural recipient of the 2023 edition of the 421 Artistic Development Program. 


Running in tandem with the exhibitions, And The Mirrors Are Many and Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions, the public programs in the season respond to the ideas presented in the exhibitions and offer an opportunity for us to collectively reflect on the ways that eurocentric, hegemonic methods of remembering can influence collective self-perception, and ultimately, how we imagine and build our futures. Audiences can attend artist-led talks, workshops, and performances; homecooking sessions; cultural tours and excursions; professional development courses; a three-day film program; and a performance symposium, all offering new perspectives on the formation of alternative ways of remembering. 


The season also includes a group exhibition curated by Dania Al Tamimi, A Biography of a Passage, that will be presented at Art Dubai in March, and an exhibition featuring the work of 100 designers selected in the 4th round of the 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters design competition. 



Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions 

Part of the Artistic Development Program 

Gallery 1 

February 5 to May 8, 2023 


Mahshid Rafiei’s first solo exhibition, Of Mythic Proportions, is the result of the 421 Artistic Development Program. Featuring a large-scale installation of six newly commissioned works that take up the entire space in Gallery 1, the exhibition explores the myth of origin and the aesthetic processes of its conservation. Of Mythic Proportions includes sculptures and sound pieces where elements are intentionally hidden to offer a deceptive reading and ask us to consider how art provides a stand-in for what might be missing. Through this play on illusion and perception, Rafiei suggests that illusion is not the antithesis of truth but a co-conspirator, guiding us in a world of loss. 


Rafiei’s work draws on long periods of research into fields such as language, literary theory, and material histories. This exhibition emerged from her research into the UAE’s conservation efforts and the relationship between heritage and nationhood. Of Mythic Proportions presents a body of work that meditates on how aesthetic processes of transformation operate in these tangible and intangible methods of conservation, and how they manifest in our sensory environment. 


Of Mythic Proportions is the inaugural presentation of the 2023 edition of the Artistic Development Program, which is organized in collaboration with pedagogical partner The Institute for Emerging Art. 


And The Mirrors Are Many

Curated by Mona Al-Jadir 

Part of the Curatorial Development Program 

Gallery 2 

February 5 to May 8, 2023 


And The Mirrors Are Many investigates institutional repositories of memory–the museum, the memorial, and the archive–and poses the questions: why do we remember, and how? By examining these contemporary modes of remembering, the exhibition considers the relationship between remembrance and history. It reflects on the aesthetics, techniques, provenance, and language that are deployed in the process of memory-making. Taking its title from the Mahmoud Darwish poem, On the Last Evening on This Earth, the exhibition reflects on the persistence of catastrophic events that continue to inscribe upon the present through traces, armatures, and echoes. 

Recent global demands for the restitution and reparation of displaced artifacts, as well as the rising calls for the decolonization of museums around the world, including the need for the inclusion of forgotten and ignored histories, means that these institutions are now facing an existential crisis; some might argue that they are struggling to adjust to change while searching for their place in the future.  As the region enters what seems like a future-focused cultural-production boom, it is essential for individuals and institutions to collectively interrogate these questions that influence our understanding of the past, the present and dreams of the future.  


Featuring annotations spread across the gallery spaces and new commissions, And The Mirrors Are Many spans a range of mediums including sculpture, video, and installation to photography, printmaking, and textiles. Artists participating in the exhibition include Rand Abdul Jabbar, Nasser Alzayani, Maitha Abdalla, Sara Smarrazzo, Dima Srouji, Emii Alrai, Vikram Divecha, Rohini Devasher, Mirella Salamé, Moza Almatrooshi, Hadeyeh Badri, Reem Al Menhali, and Fatima Uzdenova.


As part of the exhibition programming, artists Fatima Uzdenova and Reem Almenhali will present performances throughout its runtime. More information on the performances is available on the 421 website. 


The exhibition is accompanied by a 200-page publication Future Perfect, Catastrophe and The Contemporary, featuring contributions from Rohit Goel, Frank Ruda, Walid Sadek, Mays Albaik, Ala Younis, Isaac Sullivan, Veeranganakumari Solanki, and Rico Franci.  The book results from conversations that were part of the Future Perfect colloquium in November 2021.


And The Mirrors Are Many is curated by Mona Al-Jadir and emerged from a year-long journey as part of the 421 Curatorial Development Program in collaboration with The Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) and with mentorship from curator Sabih Ahmed.  


Round 4: 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters Exhibition

Location to be announced 

February 5 to March 5, 2023 


This year marks over eight years of partnership between 421 and 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters. The 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters is founded by a group of academics and students from Cairo that features the Arab world’s visual culture through selecting and highlighting the best Arabic posters from the region.


Supported by 421, this year’s edition of the 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters competition drew thousands of submissions from over 40 countries. The selected design entries, which are part of the 4th edition of the competition, will be presented at an exhibition that will take place in February over two weeks at the 421 campus. 


An exercise in experimental crowd-sourced design, the exhibition presents 100 design-focused posters and celebrates the diverse cultural aesthetics and rich creative landscape of the region. It demonstrates the plasticity of the Arabic language in its lively relationship to design, as it molds itself structurally around shifting design dictations. A marker for culture, heritage, and history, the exhibition acts as a critical archive of Arab-born design and type. 


A Biography of a Passage  

Curated by Dania Al Tamimi 

Art Dubai

March 3 to 5, 2023


A group exhibition featuring the work of 10 emerging arts from across the region will be presented at Art Dubai in its second year of collaboration with 421. The exhibition, curated by Abu Dhabi-based multidisciplinary artist, curator, and researcher Dania Al Tamimi, examines the concept of time as the binding element to the definition of the biography of objects, the active archival of lives, and the solidification of experiences. Al Tamimi pulls together artworks that ask does time move through you, or do you move through time? More information about this exhibition will be announced soon. 


Winter 2023 Program 

Additional information about the public program is provided below. 


Stepping Forward: Performance Research and Practice, Here


February 16 to 19, 2023

Presented by 421, Alserkal Arts Foundation, and New York University Abu Dhabi, Stepping Forward: Performance Research and Practice, Here is a four-day convening that brings together artists, curators, academics, and practitioners to consider critical questions around performance practice emerging from the MENASA region. The symposium features a program of talks, panel discussions, workshops, and performances that unpack, extend, and liberate contemporary performance practice towards frameworks that better serve our contexts and concerns. Presenting the work of artists and researchers outside the conventions of existing institutional models, the symposium serves as a collective ground on which to construct new models for performance beyond the hegemonic vocabulary of canon/outsider, center/periphery, or the “decolonial” as a blanket term.


This second edition of the symposium builds on conversations that took place in November 2021 at Stepping Away: Performance as Practice in the Non-West, which was hosted and produced collaboratively by 421 and Alserkal Arts Foundation.


Two days of public programming, which include talks, panel discussions, and performances, will be preceded by several closed sessions over the first two days of the convening. A full public program schedule will be available soon.


Talks, Workshop, and Special Events 

January 15 to March 21, 2023 


The Winter 2023 Program includes an exciting lineup of workshops, talks, and special events that are outlined below. 


In February, artist Augustine Paredes will lead a one-day intensive workshop, Remember to Forget to Remember, that invites participants to explore alternative techniques using photographs, personal archives, objects, and poetry, to reflect and create work that weaves emotion and memory. Introduction to Palestinian Tatreez will also take place in February, led by Joanna Barakat will introduce the history of this traditional practice, demonstrating how this intergenerational form of textile weaving has shifted and changed in technique and meaning over time. 


In March, artist Fatema Al Fardan will lead a one-day experimental writing workshop, List it Out, that explores list-making as part poetry, part prose, and part autobiography.  Excavating 421: Archiving the Present with artist Hala El Abora will also take place in March and will include an excursion around the 421 neighborhood to explore and unearth the urban environment in Mina Zayed, collecting found objects to be cast in plaster or etched. 


A second iteration of the 421 Neighborhood Food Tour in Mina Zayed will also take place in March after its popularity last season. The food tour takes participants on a journey through the histories of various UAE migrant communities who have made Abu Dhabi their home. The anticipated Jamming Sessions: Homecooking Series are also back, and this time bring a mother-daughter duo to lead a homemade Za’atar-making session. In this workshop, participants will learn about the history of Za’atar, a staple culinary spice mixture in Levantine households. 


March will also see a special collaboration with Cinema Akil that includes a three-day program of film screenings, panel discussions, and talks celebrating Arab cinema. The film screenings will include short and feature-length films that explore themes around memory and the archive. The weekend-long film program will take place mostly outdoors in the 421 Plaza under the stars. 


Artists and creative practitioners can also participate in a three-day course titled The Artist Toolkit: Strategies for Applying to Open Calls led by mentor Jolaine Frizzell along with contributions by industry professionals that addresses the challenges artists and creative practitioners face when applying for open calls, grants, and other career opportunities.


The season also includes a number of exciting Culture Bus trips to various cultural destinations such as Maraya Arts Center, 1971 Design, Sharjah Biennial 15, March Meeting, Art Dubai, and more. 


Capacity Building Programs 


Artistic Development Program

Application deadline: March 26, 2023 


Artists are invited to apply for the 2024 cycle of the Artistic Development Program. Open to UAE-based early-mid career artists and creative practitioners, this program offers recipients a 10,000 AED participation grant and guidance from experienced art educators, interlocutors, and curators to produce a new body of work that will be presented in a solo exhibition in 2024. The program focuses on the conceptual development, realization, and production of projects for the exhibition with scheduled group crits and discussion circles to support artists selected for the program. Examples of this program’s outcomes include the upcoming exhibition Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions.


Prospective applicants are encouraged to review the application requirements and submit their applications through the online form by March 26. For more information, please visit: 


Learning Opportunities 


The Docent Program

Application deadline: March 10, 2023


Graduate and postgraduate students are invited to apply for the Docent Program at 421, an initiative that gives young professionals the unique opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge for a future career in the arts. The docent program includes specialized training with industry professionals, educators, and curators to be able to conduct engaging and accessible exhibition tours to 421 visitors. 


The program includes training around how to engage with People of Determination, families and children, and other community groups who book guided tours through the 421 gallery spaces. Docents who complete the program will graduate with deeper knowledge of the region’s art history, connections with emerging artists and curators, and stronger communication skills that are invaluable for a successful future career in the arts. 


Applicants who are interested in applying to this open call can learn more here: 



Internship and Mentorship Program 

Application deadline: March 29, 2023 


The 421 Internship and Mentorship Program offers early career development support and professional preparation opportunities for emerging-creative professionals from diverse backgrounds. The program supports the professional development of young practitioners through hands-on experience and training that paves the way for future career opportunities. The program takes place on-site, and offers selected participants the opportunity to be immersed in a cultural center's operations across various departments with a targeted focus on a specific field. 

The internship runs for six months, from July to December 2023. Three applicants will be accepted for this cycle of the program. This is a paid opportunity.  Interns can choose to apply for the following departments: Administration and Project Management, Communications and Marketing, Learning Initiatives and Programs, Exhibition Design, Public Programs and Community Engagement, and Events and Operations. 

Applicants who are interested in applying to this open call can learn more here: 



Dukkan421 Pop-ups 

Dukkan421 features design-led products and items made by local and regional talent, from craft makers, such as jewelers and ceramists, to product designers and independent publishers. Presenting a wide-range of carefully selected products such as homeware, prints, stationary, accessories, and art books, every purchase from the Dukkan421 supports the work of artists based in the UAE and across the region. Dukkan421 popups can be found at Al Hosn Festival from January 13 to 22, and at Alqouz Arts Festival from January 28 to 29.