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Glocal Reflections

APEAL's 'Museum in the Making' and Temporary. Art. Platform. present: The 2016 Ras Masqa Artists' Residency

010_01 / 1 June 2016



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To get to Dahr Al-Ain, you have to navigate through major cities that have distinct names, written in several languages, highlighting the articulation of their local dialects.

As you drive through their streets, you may recall south of France.

Not its major cultural centers such as Cannes.

More like its border cities: Lagos and Beijing.

At times, you are taken by the architecture of the place.

You may feel like you’re in Havana, Mumbai or even Queens.


We’re looking for Dahr Al-Ain.

It’s that place that we’ve all been to. Not static, you know?

It’s like a Francis Bacon painting that floats back-and-forth between freeports.

That one painting we’ve only seen a documentation of and which will live in transit most of its life.


Enough of Bacon

and the Bouvier affair.

Let’s talk about that Iranian filmmaker, who had to find solace in herself in exile.

Of course, she had no choice but to leave and settle near Cannes.

That filmmaker is also native of Dahr Al-Ain.


Seriously, If you’ve never been to Dahr Al-Ain, but heard of it from your Berlin-based artist-friends, you’ve got more reasons to come with us next time.

We go there all the time.

In fact, we are here today witnessing another historical moment in the making.

The scale of things here is out of this world.

Even installations at Home Depot don’t compare.


Back to the main point though.

So we’ve been looking for Dahr Al-Ain.
We think that we’ve arrived.
And since some of you have been here for a while now,
we should form a community and deconstruct our personal experience.

I hear that local assembly is key to keeping Dahr Al-Ain the special place that it is. Special for its glorified history, identity politics and ideas that didn’t feel the need to be examined until now:

The linguistic constructs, which you might read at the Art Gallery of Ontario or in a flyer at that gallery/café/bike shop, which used to be your neighborhood’s favorite diner, before hipsters heard of Dahr Al-Ain, and had become your upstairs neighbors.


They often argue, even though they don’t live here, that Dahr Al-Ain is the new departure point for cultural exchange away from that other center of town.

Maybe when you come and visit, together, we can figure out clearly where that main center is. We leave the dissipating peripheries alone, watch Dahr Al-Ain take over and establish its proper place.

You may wonder what made Dahr Al-Ain so popular?

Is it:

the post-war accumulated guilt,

the promise of the new world,

that wealthy institution with a very clear mandate

or the heaps of funding pumping from neighboring towns?

Dahr Al-Ain does not need foreign agendas and ideologies.

I am just kidding.

Anyway, with market-based economies of exchange and consumption, the local aspect of Dahr Al-Ain could be the diasporic and the transnational that operates from a fixed abstract locale, which is not defined by its cultural sovereignty but rather its distinct cultural miscegenation and contribution to aestheticism.

I am serious.


Post-colonialism is devious.

After a while, it hits you so hard just like drinking Jameson fast enough to keep up with Kanye. It’s like the day when Kanye named his daughter North West and the media went mad.

Seriously Kanye, why aren’t we thinking about the South?


Anyway, let’s keep on driving.

Maybe on our way, we can explore a new place: its history and its people.

We can export the local flavor of their ways and their place.

Make a spectacle out of it, commodify it,

and if we don’t,

we can decide to read about it in the future in a book.

As history.


El-Darsa’s monthly Podcast, “Conversations,” on iTunes



This project is part of the the 2016 Ras Masqa Artists' Residency.



About the author

Ali El-Darsa

Ali El-Darsa, Beirut-born, Berlin-based, works in video, performance, installation and printmaking. He holds a Master of Visual Studies (MVS Studio) from Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Intermedia/Cyberarts from Concordia University, Montréal.