Artist and designer Talin Hazbar has created rectangular-like columns consisting of sand collected from archaeological sites across the UAE for an exhibition hosted by Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The ‘Co-Lab: Contemporary Art and Savoir-faire’ exhibition, curated by Alia Zaal Lootah, looks at the theme of ‘Time’ with an aim to “to strengthen cultural co-operation” between France and the UAE. Four UAE-based artists and designers were tasked to create a piece in collaboration with French artisans from various disciplines, over the course of one year.
Hazbar’s project, entitled ‘Transient: a brief stay’ looked at how materials found in archaeological sites, namely sand, can be seen as “time mediums”. She also explored the marriage of sand and porcelain through various processes such as wheel throwing, casting and sculpture.
Targeting three sites across the UAE (Al Ain, Sharjah and Al Dhaid), Hazbar collected grains of sand from each of these locations which have begun to undergo archaeological digs, changing the status of the said sites.
Hazbar explained that the three sites had been on her radar as she had been driving past them for three consecutive years on her way to factories and workshops. What caught her attention were the changes of landscape within the sites.
“My research started by noticing a site being transformed and shifted from a public space to a protected area after the discovery of certain elements. I was focused on this piece of land and the shift in form, and the process of rebuilding and restoring the site based on its current value.
“After a few visits around the area, I approached the archaeology team [working in those] areas and started a conversation on the different levels of accessibility of archaeological sites, and whether these sites should remain accessible to the public or not. Since then, I started talking to local and visiting archaeologists and restoration teams in Sharjah and Al Ain. The talks branched out to many interesting topics which made me dig into materials, specifically sand and porcelain,” Hazbar explained.
She said that her aim was to create a link between the practice of archaeology and its various audiences, which would in turn stir a dialogue on building materials, processes and value.
“The aim is bring the public community closer to sites where historic/archaeological research is taking place in order to help them understand the value of a site taking on a new nature, and understand the value of heritage protection and preservation initiatives,” she explained.
Collaborating with France-based porcelain manufactures, Manufactue National de Sevres, the project was taken further by incorporating themes of research such as culture, nature, value, and impermanence. These were done through experiments of combining sand grains with porcelain, which throughout history has been used as a medium of preservation.
The experiments included introducing sand grains to various classic Sevres shapes from the 18th century, in one case where the sand acted as the ‘visitor material’ and was permanently encapsulated in porcelain, which in turn acted as the host material.
In another phase of the project, the opposite was accomplished where the sand encapsulated the porcelain. In both cases, the visiting material was preserved within a host material to reflect a “hyper-evolving environment and its strong global connections”.
“I was interested in the relationship between these two materials and how they exist within each other historically and naturally,” Hazbar explained. “How would these ceramic fragments/skins be encapsulated and exist in another dimension and take on a different context? In ‘Transient’ the vases became their own subject when they were within a landscape and a context, and a reverse relationship was highlighted through the piece.
“There is a very interesting relationship between the two materials which are both organic, granular,and malleable, where their fragility and their strength can be put in view simultaneously to reflect a state of existence, while sustaining time in different manners,” she added.
She continued: “Sand by its nature buries and preserves and ceramic by its nature preserve and record certain gestures. ‘Transient’ illustrates a nomadic, alive relationship between materials. It connects the way we perceive time and how we value it by staging forms and materials out of context as extractions within new realms.”
In her process of combining the two materials, Hazbar used moulds for various functions, such a preservation, casting and then finally to detach the sand and the porcelain. For each fragment, a mould was created and later cast within bigger moulds in an effort to preserve its form using sand casts.
“Porcelain was treated as grains and fragments. I was interested to reveal the thin fragments and shards of certain pieces to explore areas other than the volumetric aspect of the pieces. Meanwhile, in the small structures, I used air pressure to extract and dig through the pieces to reveal the thinness of the material. There is always a fine line as certain layers will be lost and others will be persevered,” said Hazbar.
The rectangular columns, which are the end result of the year-long research, also feature shades of blue pigment which is a colour that has long been synonymous with porcelain production and ceramic traditions. What marked the importance of the colour within the overall piece was its symbolism in the preservation of time.
“‘Transient’ takes a linear form that illustrates a beginning with an undefined end to reflect our understanding of time,” said Hazbar.
“The form of the column and its location lends the viewer a chance to witness a slow build up or a rapid deterioration as you approach the structures. The piece aims to put nature and archaeology on display, where existence and disappearance, building and deterioration can be viewed simultaneously and on the same level.”
Other designers involved in the exhibition include Khalid Shafar, Zeinab Alhashemi, and Vikram Divecha.
Co-Lab will be on display at the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi museum until 25 March 2018.