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What is the future of arts infrastructures and audiences across North Africa and the Middle East?

Youmna Chlala
8 May 2014

Proposal for a future field

or how to live outside of prediction

Duration proceeds not by continuous growth, smooth unfolding or accretion, but through division, bifurcation, dissociation – by difference – through sudden and unexpected change or eruption.

– Elizabeth Grosz

But everything is gone save the climate. And something of the sea has left, too, because the sea is so messy.

– Etel Adnan


On a bright morning, standing near an invented lake, I had a conversation with two men from Manila hired to navigate abras along Dubai's waters. They stood on the tame shore asking questions about my grass turf installation. One man took a photo on his Samsung phone and sent it to his wife in the Philippines. The other walked timidly across the grass in heavy boots. Ants and spiders scurried below each marked step. He came back to observe the work and asked what I usually do. Surely you don't always work with plants? No. This is site-specific. He spaced out as I began naming my practice, drawing, video, depends on the project...then he turned around and said: Oh. I get it. You can't draw desire, you have to walk it.


Youmna Chlala, The Desire	Path, 2014, Dubai Art Project.
Youmna Chlala, The Desire Path, 2014, Dubai Art Project.
Youmna Chlala

is an artist and a writer born in Beirut & based in New York. Her work investigates the relationship between fate and architecture through drawing, video, sculpture, prose and performance. Chlala is a 2014-16 Open Sessions artist at The Drawing Center and a 2014 resident artist at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center's Process Space. She has participated in the 2011 Performa Biennial, Jerusalem Show IV and the first roaming Tehran Biennale. She has exhibited widely including the ICA London, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Dubai Art Projects, Camera Austria, CultuurCentrum Bruges and Art In General. She is the Founding Editor of Eleven Eleven {1111} Journal of Literature and Art and the recipient of a Joseph Henry Jackson Award for her poetry manuscript, The Paper Camera. Her writing appears in Urban Hopes Made in China by Steven Holl and in publications such as Guernica, Bespoke, CURA, MIT Journal for Middle Eastern Studies, Bahithat: Journal of Lebanese Women Researchers and XCP: Journal of Cross Cultural Poetics. She is an Associate Professor in the Humanities & Media Studies Department at the Pratt Institute and co-coordinates the Language Making program in the School of Architecture.

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