In Suspended ,ِ Abdullah AlOthman created an intervention in Al- Khunji Al- Kabir in the old city of Jeddah in order to instill a renewed notion of its remarkable architectural style.He has covered the entire building with tin foil in a symbolic gesture to its frozen state.Buildings and cities,like people, have their own histories and go through their own journeys. By wrapping up the entire building , the artist sought to make a statement about the absurdity of thinking that the cycle of change could ever be stopped . As the old saying goes , change is the only constant thing in life. As the sun will shine on the Khunji and its rays will be reflected from the tin foil in all directions,it will inspire new emotions and ideas in people
On That Day, The Residents Of The Little Neighborhood Woke Up At The Voice Of The Chickpeas Tout, Around Whom The Neighborhood Children, As Well As Those Of The Adjacent Neighborhood, Gathered. Everyone Asked About The Disappearance Of Uncle Khanji’s House.”
Artist Abdullah al-Othman, or rather his most recent performance artwork in the old al balad district in Jeddah, is to be held responsible for this. It is an artwork that engenders a debate, posing questions about the role of the authentic city in its attempting to regain its social and civil character in the face of an accelerating race towards metropolitanism. What Al-Othman is doing here resembles stretching out an alternative bridge to nourish a human’s heart. It is a surgery called “cardiac catheterization.” This bridge is not necessarily a tangible one, but more importantly a revitalization of the power of memory and a firm belief in the identity of the place. In fact, it is a construction of an alternative memory, done through hiding a whole building and implanting a foreign body into the harmonious fabric of the old neighborhood—wrapping the building with a luminous, reflective material: aluminum foil. It is an attempt to invest in the most important characteristics of this material: its high resistance to weather changes and its capability to preserve.
Of course, it goes beyond that neutrality to create surprise and shock. The reflective character of the foil makes it function as a mirror through which the audience can initiate a dialogue with themselves. Such use summons the notion of shadow play, an ancient genre that made use of places and squares to perform storytelling. Here is a new shadow play, with new tools, in a new context
Dependence on surprise is a condition of this artistic test with which the audience and the surroundings interact. In cognitive psychology, the brain depends on recalling memories. By deconstructing the wrapped building that reflects everything but itself, its original, familiar image is triggered in the imagination. It is to be put in conversation, or even antagonism, with the urgent form enabled by the tensions occurring during social and economic transformations that have greatly affected public space. It is thus that the attempt to summon old memories with the assistance of dopamine. On the other hand, one can ask, through this work, what architectural form is. What does it mean? Why is it so significant today? Despite the essential historical importance of form in geometry and architecture, it is often overlooked in discussion. The project of wrapping an old building in an old neighborhood tackles the idea of form as foreign to the city or its space. It poses a set of questions regarding the ideal, not only through aesthetic and technological approaches, but also through the social and political aspects of display. Experiencing al-Othman’s work, what immediately comes to mind is the project of architectural space in its environment, the so-called micro-climate urbanism, as a solar energy building. But, what about the architectural morphology? In fact, the discussion of this artwork brings back the idea of the presence of art in public space. Al-Othman takes his art out of galleries, museums and other traditional exhibition venues, exploring the possibilities for reconstructing the past of a social group through daily practices and the collective body. The assumption, then, is as follows: how can the body play a significant role during social changes? Can it explain the zones of inclusion between the past and the future? Our existence is attached to specific, limited spaces. Those spaces function like molds or wombs. Also, the past has audio and visual effects when it comes to memory. Demolishing cities is annihilating a sacred source, yet it incites memory to resurface. Therefore, it is efficient to adjust everyday spaces according to the expectations of those in charge—users of the spaces themselves. In our capricious search for the tangible in the irrational part of social phenomena, desire continues to be fundamental to explaining
realistic forms of social existence and exploring unknown realms of social experience. The house is more than legacy; it contains the family’s history, links inhabitants to their roots, is incorporated in a certain history, and maintains the social fabric across the past and the present. One last noteworthy point has to do with the history of art in the region. Despite that the work allows for multiple interpretations, the idea of its execution in public space takes us back to the Muallaqat, just like it does with shadow play. One of the most important cultural phenomena in the Arab world, the Muallaqat were poems hanged on the walls of Ka’aba, resembling curtains covering the “ancient house.” Their structure was begun by reminiscing about ruins and remembering old times. Al-Othman’s work puts us in front of the new shadow play, the new Muallaqah.
Text by Ahmed Mater