I may have been lucky as the family's house is just a few steps away from the offices of the Social Development Committee in Qatif, where artists, photographers, and playwrights exhibit their work constantly and throughout the year amid ongoing discussions between the audience, which includes women and men.
This gave me the opportunity to get to know the most important artists of the Eastern region early, and to notice the cultural dissimilarities between the different experiences, both on the level of expressing art and their perception of it or in terms of their relation to the self and the existence around them. The most interesting thing was the artist’s ability to transform those personal ideas into creative works.
It is a secret string of art, culture, experimentation, and perhaps also absurdity and sometimes bohemianism. That is the nature of the artist and his way of expressing himself in an unfamiliar wayHassan Al Mustafa
The place was like a beehive despite the lack of material resources and the difficulties they faced but they had the determination to keep going and develop themselves. This is simply because art was a dream that never left the imagination, a means to express the artist's relationship with society, and also a part of exercising freedom as the artist saw fit, or possible!
This cultural context, which the artists experienced in the eastern region, is part of a bigger artistic scene that was imperceptible to many, from sea to the sea and from north of the peninsula to the frontiers of its immense mountains in the south.
It is a secret string of art, culture, experimentation, and perhaps also absurdity and sometimes bohemianism. That is the nature of the artist and his way of expressing himself in an unfamiliar way, outside the predominant context that people are familiar with, or else he would be a copy of the daily, routine-like, cold life!
Significance of the arts
I remember those empty years, since it was a time when arts was socially neglected, even on the level of official education. Students in schools sat for Art Education classes to pass time and do nothing else, since it was some sort of entertainment not a field that has rules or aesthetics which they must nurture, develop and look after.
Even art institutes and faculties of fine arts were absent. The College graduates of "Art Education" had nothing of the spirit of art or its philosophical and abstract dimensions!
The experimentation conducted by the participating artists within the team of the Misk Art Institute at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018 indicate a change in the perception of art. They also indicate that efforts are being made so that the status of arts can be restored, especially since the presented works are not traditional, instead they have a philosophical and existential aspect related to the place and its relationship with the inner self, how it is formed, and how it impacts architecture and its artistry and networks of relations between people.
Looking after these kinds of initiatives will gradually lead to the creation of a general taste, which will care for the aesthetics as part of life, not just admirably appraise worthy works. The Misk Art Institute will have a long way to go to achieve this responsibility. The mission may be difficult, but it is necessary, and the Kingdom's artists are capable of taking on the task.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.