Fossil fuels, oil – and our reliance on it – are at the forefront of the climate crisis. The Kuwaiti visual artist Monira Al Qadiri researches how entire cultures and landscapes are exploited by the addictive but destructive substance of oil. The exposition Landscapes of Extraction – spanning sculptures and videos – shows how oil-soaked our culture is today and invites viewers to imagine a future without it.
Uncanny landscapes, golden drill bits, speaking murex seashells and pearl diving songs. In the world that Al Qadiri creates, she plays with the paradoxical beauty of the destructive oil industry. She pre-empts the end of oil by creating monuments and mythologies around it, as if to eulogise it, like a long lost history from ancient peoples.
Al Qadiri’s work draws upon the transformation of her home country, Kuwait and the broader Gulf region. A landscape that was, before the discovery and extraction of oil, characterized by the culture of pearl diving. Al Qadiri’s ongoing search for historical ties between the pre- and post-oil Kuwait show how our mindset of extraction today is entangled with the colonial histories of crude oil.
The connection of her work to the Netherlands is hard to miss: colonial larceny, the looting of raw materials and shipping them away overseas. Is oil the very stuff that connects the scarred landscapes across the world, from of the Gulf, to the Nigerdelta and the North Sea?
The exhibition at De Balie has been curated in close consultation with Monira Al Qadiri, its presentation is as partner project of the Hartwig Art Foundation.
About Monira Al Qadiri
Monira Al Qadiri, born in 1983, is a Kuwaiti artist raised in Senegal and educated in Japan. Her diverse artistic work includes sculpture, installations, film, and performance. She interprets the Gulf’s “petro-culture” through hypothesized scenarios, drawing inspiration from science fiction, autobiography, traditional practices, and pop culture.
Al Qadiri has exhibited in numerous international venues such as UCCA Dune, China; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Gasworks, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; MoMA PS1, New York and the Sharjah Art Biennial. Her work is present in the collections of the Jameel Arts Center, Dubai, and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, among others. Al Qadiri was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 2016/2017.
Hartwig Art Foundation & Monira Al Qadiri
In advance of this presentation, Monira Al Qadiri was selected in 2022 by the Foundation’s Commissioning Committee to produce a work for the collection. The work Future Past 3 (2023) wasacquired through the Hartwig Art Production | Collection Fund and presented at UCCA Dune as part of the exhibition Monira Al Qadiri: Haunted Water. The work will be donated to the Dutch state, becoming an integral part of the national art collection (‘Rijkscollectie’), available for institutions in the Netherlands and abroad.