Sustainability takes centre stage at The Arts Center at NYUAD

The theme has been an integral part of the conversation since The Arts Center’s inauguration in 2015

The Arts Center at NYUAD is aligning with the upcoming COP28 conference and as Director Bill Bragin explains sustainability has always been an important topic at the heart of their productions.

“What’s important to me is that while people understand that the arts are often quite entertaining, they are also a way of seeing, understanding and healing the world.”

Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi, is speaking to Yalla on the launch of The Art Center’s ninth season, a genre-defying programme with a strong sustainability theme that supports the ongoing COP28 dialogue.

“It’s important that the arts have a seat at the table for all kinds of conversations. It’s not just an add on. They’re an inherent part of the conversation,” he says, pointing out how using the arts to look at issues of sustainability has been a part of the Art Center’s programming for a very long time.

Their second season in 2016 witnessed performers inhabit a human-size aquarium that floods and re-floods in Los Angeles-based director and multidisciplinary artist, Lars Jan’s Early Morning Opera’s Holoscenes. The visceral performance installation embodied the trauma of global warming and rising water levels.

Going deeper into the vaults to 2015 when The Arts Center launched its inaugural programme, American folk and blues musician, Toshi Reagon, presented the concert version of a work-in-progress opera, which, according to Bill, was fundamentally a piece on climate change and community response to a collapsing climate.

“I think what’s also important in terms of the theme of sustainability is that it’s not just one theme; there are so many different interconnected issues and angles that arise when you lay out sustainability as a topic,” he says.


Bill Bragin


“Although broadly speaking there’s a sustainability theme in the ninth season in certain cases, we are also looking at planetary ecological consciousness with Andrew Schneider’s piece, “N O W I S W H E N W E A R E.”

The immersive, multimedia theatrical installation, presented earlier in September in two versions – a narrative and installation version, using thousands of reactive lights and hundreds of speakers to create an interactive theatrical cosmos in a unique experience.

“In other cases, we’re looking at the impact of urbanisation and the idea of the Anthropocene and human impact on the environment in Koyaanisqatsi live cine-concert, featuring the ground-breaking film by Godfrey Reggio set to the influential score by Philip Glass.”

The latest programme also looks at indigenous issues in Small Island Big Song, which takes centre stage on Wednesday, 29 November, at 7.30pm. The Arab world premiere of Our Island features musical performances by islander songkeepers from the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, coming together to express their concerns about the changing state of the oceans.


Small Island Big Song


Miwa Matreyek’s show, running Thursday, 16 November, at 7.30pm; Friday, 17 November, at 7.30pm; and Saturday, 18 November at 2pm and 7.30pm, is known for her captivating interdisciplinary shadow performances and live shows. Composed of two special pieces, This World Made Itself and I Infinitely Yours, she is known for her captivating interdisciplinary shadow performances and live shows.

“Miwa is an artist that I’ve been watching for a long time,” says Bill. “She’s a digital animator who creates beautiful, layered animations that are projected, performing between the projection so that her silhouette is incorporated in a visually stunning performance.”

In a residency supported by a grant from the US Mission to the UAE, the artist combines surreal and poetic narratives to depict the conflict between humans and nature, and the rapid changes on Earth due to climate change and global warming.


Miwa Matreyek's This World made Itself


“What’s powerful about sustainability as a theme, and we’re seeing the urgency of this conversation all over the world on a daily basis, is that from an artistic standpoint so many different artists are exploring so many different angles,” says Bill.

“We think it’s essential that we’re part of that conversation. “It’s one thing to read the news, to see a lot of statistics, but it’s another to really have your heart opened and to feel the urgency.

“The secret and special power of the arts is that it creates a sense of empathy and emotional connectedness with the issue that short circuits the brain and goes right to the heart.”


For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit nyuad-artscenter.org

For more news on arts and culture from around the capital, visit Yalla Abu Dhabi Life

Image source NYUAD Art Center

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