ART AND ART HISTORY
Documenting Visual Design at NYUAD
DESIGN WORKS was a show set in the Arts Center Project Space from January 9 to 23, 2019.
Curated by the students Diego Arias and Van Anh Bui, with the assistance of Erin Collins and Goffredo Puccetti, it presented an overview of all the visual design works carried on in-house, by students and faculty from 2012 to present. It served both as an archive and as a celebration.
Visual Design practice entered the curriculum of our university in January 2012 with the offering of an elective class named Designing Abu Dhabi. Since then, in-house graphic design has played a major role in assisting the establishment of NYUAD’s visual identity: student-driven design has not only supported the institution’s needs in outstanding ways, but also–perhaps more importantly–it has helped us to define our mission and vision. Students have assisted faculty and staff in making sure that the quality of everything we did was properly reflected in our designed material. They highlighted our strengths and even corrected our mishaps. To give but one, quite significant, example: we did not have an Arabic logotype in place until the students designed one!
Some of their work is now gone for good, and for several works, sadly there is little more left than a blurry photo taken with a smartphone camera. But many other designs are here. And they are here to stay: in the Arts Center, the corridors of the Theater and Music Departments display beautiful posters designed by students. Even the fire doors have been transformed by the students into memorable landmarks. And every time we welcome new students at Marhaba Week, every time we cheer for our Athletics teams, every time our seniors get to hold the silver Torch on Commencement day, the legacy of student-driven design is apparent.
Moreover, the outreach of their work has gone way beyond the “Saadiyat bubble,” with projects of national and international relevance such as the visual identity for the World Wildlife Federation in the UAE, or the ArabWIC organization, now present in more than 20 countries, just to name two. Following a request from the Office of the Provost, our alumna Harshini Karunaratne recorded video at the show and has captured its essence in the amazing eleven-minute documentary shown below.
Goffredo Puccetti is Assistant Professor of the Practice of Visual Arts at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Harshini Karunaratne graduated from NYUAD in 2018, with a double major in Film and New Media and in Theater. You can find more of her work at harshinijk.com.
LITERATURE AND CREATIVE WRITING
Narrativizing the Refugee
Chiran Raj Pandey
Caroline Brothers’ s Hinterland, which follows the lives of two young Afghan boys who are refugees from their country, is an uncomfortable novel. There is something disturbing about the way it has made me suddenly conscious of my own body. Two brothers, Aryan and Kabir, are forced to work in a farm in Greece, or swindled again and again by those who promise them safety, abused, lost, or shivering. Both are young, too young to have to be so old and daring, too innocent to be victim to an ugly and tyrannical history.
Brothers has taken on a difficult task. Refugees define the crisis of our times, and as civil war, famine, invasion, disease, and climate change continue to escalate, so will the refugee crisis worsen. Brothers, who is also a journalist, is much too familiar with the terrible conditions in which these people struggle to live, sometimes just to survive. Her task, from her many years of experience reporting about refugee children in Paris, Greece, and other capitals of the world, is, in her own words, to break “news of Europe’s invisible child refugees on the front page.” Her novel breaks that news on every page; every moment in this novel is striking; every part of Aryan and Kabir’s journey is important; and when we leave Kabir in England at the end of the novel, we know that so much has to be written, still: life could hardly end here.
To write about people who are so far removed from our own lives is always difficult. Immense research must go into it. The love and empathy that one must build, slowly and over a lifetime, for people who one has encountered always from a safe and innocent distance — the work is daunting. History, too, must be dealt with: one need only turn their eyes to Afghanistan for a moment to be blinded by the intensity of its past. Violence has accrued over generations, and it carries the various brands of the white world: America, England, Russia. Local brands are available, too: the Taliban, often a distant but formidable presence in this novel, are responsible for the deaths of Aryan and Kabir’s entire family. I wonder if there were such times, when Brothers was writing Hinterland, that this history proved to be too much for one individual to write about. But I am quickly reminded of the courage and trust in life that the two brothers must have had, to shoulder such a history and then dare to leave it behind.
To write about people who are so far removed from our own lives is always difficult.
There are moments in this novel that find me wishing for more: more courage, perhaps, on the author’s part, to confront history, or to find ways of narrativizing the refugee’s struggle for survival that are less interested in being coherent, or even readable, to attempt to reimagine the entire landscape of a form such as the novel, which seems ill-suited to address life when it is spinning at full-speed inside a destructive washing machine. Consider the English of the book. How are two brothers and their acquaintances, who likely barely speak the language, employing idioms that would have been foreign to their tongue? Phrases such as “Don’t worry, it’s not like we don’t have time,” or “You lost people in your family too, didn’t you,” or “You’re the only real family I have left” seem like awkward simulacra of Hollywood films. They appear out of place in this refugee novel, like old Hong Kong movies dubbed in English. I regret that the author refuses to be attentive to silences in such moments. Things said in the privacy of the camps, things that this author must have misunderstood, those things lost in the vast horizon of translatability — all seem somehow narrativized, sanitized even, for the sake of the novel.
I sit upright. My back hurts; I have been here for almost two hours now. How easy it is to be comfortable, I think, how easy it is to forget now that the novel is ended. Is literature as powerful as one would want it to be? Perhaps in the refugee’s ongoing conditions of captivity and fugitivity, speculation and narrativization are terrifying forms of violence. We abstract, when we read about Aryan and Kabir, from the specific experiences of particular people. Speculation requires us to profess control. In narrating, we draw the paths their lives will take. I can only wonder if there will ever be a different way to write this story. There is much work to be done.
Chiran Raj Pandey is the managing editor of Electra Street and a senior at NYUAD, majoring in Literature and Creative Writing.
Author Caroline Brothers will speak at the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute on September 10 at 6:30 p.m.
In December, we challenged NYU Abu Dhabi students to use their phones for photography – without using any filters of any sort. We had so many submissions that it was difficult to filter out three winning photographs, but filter we did and here are the results! Stay tuned for upcoming contests and remember that all submissions will be considered for possible inclusion in the first-ever print publication of student creative work, which will feature work from students at NYUAD and the GNU.
Congratulations to the winners!
Caroline Cobena, “Yorkney’s Knob, Australia”
Tom Taylor, “On Break”
Agustina Zegers, untitled