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RIYADH: Technology and traditional practices are combined to help raise the profile of Saudi art on the world stage.

With the help of an immersive experience design company, artists participating in major events in the Kingdom use augmented, virtual and mixed reality techniques to display their works.

Jeddah-based Midwam works to promote public and private sector brands at festivals such as Noor Riyadh, MDLBEAST and AlUla Dates Festival.

A photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub

Khalid Al-Muawad, co-founder and managing director of Midwam, told Arab News: “We basically look at the scene as a whole and take it from a human-centered approach, and look at what can attract and engage. a person towards this industry.”

In its collaboration with Noor Riyadh, the company worked with four Saudi artists to apply a high-tech perspective to their designs.

Mohammed Al-Sanie, a contributing artist and senior member of Midwam’s production department, told Arab News: “In our industry, or even when working with artists, we usually see technology as an enabler or a tool. It shouldn’t be the star of what we do, it should be a tool we use.

A photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub

A new media artist, Al-Sanie’s work is primarily influenced by the 1980s, retro sci-fi and the synthwave electronic music genre, and aims to explain the present and the future through the past.

One of his pieces, “Dreams in Color,” is an outdoor LED installation showcasing an alternate version of Riyadh via video loops displayed on a screen framed with polystyrene wood, siding and scaffolding.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Jeddah-based Midwam works to promote public and private sector brands at festivals such as Noor Riyadh, MDLBEAST and the AlUla Dates Festival.

• In its collaboration with Noor Riyadh, the company worked with four Saudi artists to apply a high-tech perspective to their creations

He said: “It’s a retro-style aesthetic, so what immediately came to mind was the CRT TV, which a lot of people might remember their grandparents having. I had the idea to build a sculpture of a TV, the TV screens being modern era, mixing new technology with old.

Photo: Midwam

His idea was based on the black and white television sets of the 1950s and 1960s, with a reimagining of the future in a 3D rendered world of warm hues and neon accents.

“The title of the piece, ‘Dreams in Color,’ is that I try to influence people’s dreams in a positive, happy, surreal and imaginative way, based on this information,” Al-Sanie added.

Under the theme “We dream of new horizons”, the Noor Riyad Festival sought to champion the innovation of light through various mediums.

Mohammad Alfaraj’s piece “With light I create a hand of love and I extend it to you”, includes a screen and a camera installed outside, nothing happens
until onlookers pull out their phones, using the light emitted by them as paintbrushes with which to paint in the air. (Provided by Riyadh Art)

Al-Sanie said her work is designed to strike a balance between the digital and the physical, comparing old and new Riyadh through retro-futuristic representation.

Midwam also partnered with other artists to develop content and storyboard the experience.

As part of the Saudi Art Council’s 21.39 initiative, the firm worked with Marwah Al-Mugait on the creation of a 3D video-projection performance.

Al-Muawad said, “You have to keep the guidelines of this art in perspective when creating this experience. They are extremely specific and detailed about how the journey of this experience is going to be.

Mohammed Al-Hamdan presents his installation of interactive streetlights “Walking Lights” on the sidewalk of Riyadh’s Olaya Street which works
by detecting the motion of passing pedestrians and translating it into an immersive experience of light and sound. (Provided by Riyadh Art)

For multimedia artist Daniah Al-Saleh’s work Noor Riyadh, Midwam drew, visualized and helped map his video pieces. He explored resistance to public displays of love and affection in conservative societies through social commentary.

Several AI-generated fake figures were projected onto pillars, lip-syncing to 26 famous Arabic love songs as a declaration of love in a public space.

Al-Saleh told Arab News, “Midwam was responsible for producing my work, ‘Love Stories’, in Oud Square. They were assigned to me because my work involved a bit of mapping and they were really practical. We had many meetings until they understood exactly what I wanted.

The company has also worked with artists Mohammed Al-Faraj, whose piece “With Light I Create a Hand of Love and Extend it to You” required audience participation using cellphones, and Mohammed Al-Hamdan for the presentation of his installation of interactive streetlights “Walking Lights”. activated by pedestrian movements.

Harnessing the art scene through their work was essential for the company to build on public art initiatives, impact communities and humanize environmental issues, with the goal of putting Saudi Arabia on a -world shape.

“All of these are considered soft power items. When there is a specific perspective on a population or a country that is completely limited to a certain area, art comes into play and that changes completely,” Al-Muawad added.

Al-Sanie said, “The artist brings their narrative to the artwork. Moreover, the visitor or the observer brings his own perception; it is an invisible conversation between the creator and the viewer.

About Jean R. Manzer

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