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Martha Atienza, Jake Atienza

Equation of State
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Martha Atienza’s ‘Equation of State III’ is part of a series that examines climate change and asks the viewer to question environmental management and socioeconomic development. The installation is an entry point to community-based archival work on Bantayan Island in central Philippines from which it emerges.
Equation of State

ROBIN MEIER WIRATUNGA

Waves Beneath an Ocean of Wet Air
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This commission juxtaposes audio recordings from the Empty Quarters in the Arabian Peninsula—sounds of singing sands, acoustic measurements of dune sediment, and foraging ants from his field work—with submarine recordings from the Indian Ocean, neuroelectric activity of the brain, AI-synthesized vocal sounds, and various other elements to create a generative, polyphonic soundscape, giving a voice to the stories of the desert and weaving a composition with sounds from oceans of varying wetness and its entangled kin.

Tarek Atoui

The Hive: On Vibration and Resonance
BE
In this video workshop, Tarek Atoui invites children to explore music-making through playing with toys and instruments.
The Hive: On Vibration and Resonance

Sammy Baloji

Overcoming Modernity
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A conversation between Sammy Baloji and Rolando Vázquez Melken on world exhibitions and the politics of cultural representation and appropriation through contemporary artistic and architectural interventions.
Overcoming Modernity

Munem Wasif, Natasha Ginwala

Kheyal: a conversation with Munem Wasif
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Munem Wasif and Natasha Ginwala discuss Wasif's solo exhibition Kromosho (ক্রমশ), or "step by step" in Bengali. Together, they exchange views around how the artist’s gaze has evolved, chronicling fiction and fact over time with fundamental transformations in both medium and subject. Traversing a range of recent works, Wasif attunes to unraveling vantage points, protagonists, and ambient idiosyncrasies.
Kheyal: a conversation with Munem Wasif

Anne Holtrop

From Geology to Glass
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Anne Holtrop Studio presents part of the research behind Glass to Stone, with a focus on the transitions from geology to glass, to glass waste and new glass production.
From Geology to Glass

Migrant Ecologies Project

Fragments from Railtrack Songmaps
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BE
By probing the existing relationships between humans and birds, Migrant Ecologies collaborators explore a series of pathways through a contested zone along the former tracks of the Malaysian state railroad at Tanglin Halt, a neighborhood of Singapore that has undergone considerable social and environmental change. 

Fragments from Railtrack Songmaps

Aseel AlYacoub

Desert as Method
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Drawing insights from historical records, cultural narratives, and the constructed environment, Aseel AlYacoub invites workshop participants to redefine preconceived notions about the desert.
Desert as Method

Mariah Lookman

Poets have forgotten the words for love
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BE
A digital version of Mariah Lookman's sound walk, which gathers stories along spice routes in Saudi Arabia. The artist’s poetic narration is inspired by the stories of healers and merchants at the souks, and those of mothers and grandmothers. Storytelling becomes a method of recuperating a knowledge of plants that is passed on orally from one generation to the next. The work is an embodied and holistic experience of cross-cultural encounters and vernacular knowledge that has endured over distance and time.
Poets have forgotten the words for love

Tara Aldughaither & Joe Namy

Rhythms of the Rising Sun
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Rhythms of the Rising Sun traces migratory rhythmic ecologies from West Asia, the Indian Ocean subcontinent, East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. This collaborative research project aims to raise awareness for resonant sound pressures in the region today. It explores how lucid migratory patterns have shaped some of the most prominent rhythms, sounds, and music of these geographies, and how rhythms have in turn shaped language and ways of life.

Liam Young

The Great Endeavor
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Speculative architect and filmmaker Liam Young reflects on The Great Endeavor, a 2023 work that depicts a planetary carbon removal and storage industry emerging in the near future as part of the solution to the climate crisis.
The Great Endeavor

Feifei Zhou

Before there was land, there were mangroves
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Zhou’s commission is a long-term, collaborative research undertaking that investigates coastal land reclamation across the globe. Filled by hard material such as rocks and cement, reclaimed land eliminates porosity and results in more severe flooding and biodiversity degradation. In contrast, mangrove forests, such as those in the Indian Ocean, nurture a rich range of sea and land creatures including fish, crabs, birds, and shrimp. Their salt-tolerant trunks and roots also create a porous environment and natural barrier against floods and tides. Preserving mangroves are some of the most pressing battles for coastal communities around the world.

Mohammad AlFaraj

Sketches / Whispers
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Mohammad AlFaraj shares pencil sketches, ephemeral poems, and handwritten notes from the making of *The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow*, a newly commissioned work showing outdoors at the JAX District as part of Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024.
Sketches / Whispers

Dana Awartani

Listen to my words
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In this selection of translated Arabic poetry interlaced with geometric symbolism, Awartani's work breathes a new life into powerful voices from the past, orchestrating an intergenerational dialogue that subtly questions the status of women in contemporary society. 
Listen to my words

Jumana Emil Abboud

Gazelle in a Mother's Eye
BE
Working with collaborators Tamara Kalo and Ileana Gonzalez Pacheco, artist Jumana Emil Abboud has created an immersive study of local folktales and the experience of embedding herself in the Riyadh landscape.
Gazelle in a Mother's Eye

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise

Plantations, Museums, and Regenerative Ecologies
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The work presented is a radical act of digital restitution. CATPC reclaims a piece of their heritage by using funds gained from NFTs (non-fungible tokens) such as Balot NFT, minted in 2022 and depicting the angry spirit of Belgian colonial officer Maximilien Balot (1890–1931). A series of short videos share the journey of collective members as they speak to elders, art historians, and academics about the possibility of restitution and the future use of blockchain technology toward regenerative forest ecologies.

Hussein Nassereddine

Hanging notes on “Laughing on the River”
BE
I choose here, dear ones, to comment on the texts that have become laughter on the river, from that time a poet recalled his loneliness in the open desert and its long night, to my friends in the river near our village, as we jump from the high rocks––plunging headfirst into the water, then the years take us, and we enter time. 
Hanging notes on “Laughing on the River”

Jorge Otero-Pailos

A Library of Earthen Architectures
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BE
Jorge Otero-Pailos collaborates with Saudi artists and heritage experts in charge of Saudi World Heritage sites to create a Library of Earthen Architectures, which includes artefacts representative of Saudi cultural memory.
A Library of Earthen Architectures

Anca Rujoiu, Priyageetha Dia

Forget Me, Forget Me Not
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Amid the sea of information and data prone to racialized terminology, what are the possibilities for an artistic engagement to eschew or hijack the perpetuation of violence? Anca Rujoiu writes about Priyageetha Dia's *Forget Me, Forget Me Not.*
Forget Me, Forget Me Not

Taus Makhacheva

Archival Footage: Behind Charivari
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Taus Makhacheva shares archival films that were collected and compiled from her research on the Soviet circus tradition.
Archival Footage: Behind Charivari

Rasha Al-Duwaisan

Buckets and Waterskins
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In this poetic reflection, Rasha Al-Duwaisan expands on Buckets and Waterskins, which was presented in March 2024 as part of the Biennale Encounters program of the Diriyah Contemporary Arts Biennale.
Buckets and Waterskins

Aseel AlYacoub

The Secret Lake
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In this video documentation, Aseel AlYacoub explores two sites within Riyadh's desert, commonly referred to as 'The Secret Lake'. Through the footage, the artist interweaves narration from Paul W. Harrison's "The Arab at Home" (1924), a work by an American medical missionary to Arabia.
The Secret Lake

Paulo Tavares

An Architectural Botany
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Paulo Tavares writes about what can happen when we recognise that a quintessentially natural or wild space—as defined by the hegemonic epistemic frameworks of colonial modernity—is in reality a cultural, socially produced artefact and how architectural practice and research can learn from a botanic archaeology, its methods and epistemic shifts. The essay is an excerpt of “Architectural Botany: A Conversation with William Balée on Constructed Forests,” the eighth chapter of Environmental Histories of Architecture, an open-access book published by the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
An Architectural Botany

Hiba Ismail

Two Islets
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Using an ongoing archive of sonic field recordings and images as a starting point, Ismail’s commission involves gathering extensive field recordings and images from the Red Sea and its surrounding areas, resulting in an index of recordings and photographs. Her most recent recordings took place on the Suakin Archipelago and multiple locations off the east coast of Sudan. The process of collecting audio material is an attempt to understand our relationship to the environment, drawing parallels between contemporary politics, archaeologies, and the natural histories of the earth. She consolidated the extensive catalogue of archipelago sounds into an audio composition developed in collaboration with sound designer Panos Chountoulidis.

Seher Shah

Notes from a City Unknown
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Cities are archives of our histories. They unfurl the historical, and connect the political to the personal across intimate passageways. We navigate the city through our kinships, languages, and constellations, which bind us in unknown and profound ways. We live with the weight and traces of those that came before us, as we guide our exterior and interior lives. Woven into us are notes and networks from inherited places, or a separation, leaving traces of a memory and a marked absence. Our names and bodies bear the weight of our failed nations, as we trace our footsteps to a sense of belonging.
Notes from a City Unknown

NIDHI MAHAJAN & MOAD MUSBAHI

An Excerpt from Kitab Al Marasi: A Composite Navigational Manual for the Indian Ocean
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A composite navigational manual for the Indian Ocean that draws from the historical cultural practices of local sailors to confront the uncertain future of coastal communities across the Indian Ocean facing extreme climate degradation. The work creates a repository of Indigenous maritime knowledge that firmly ties the risk of climate change with vernacular forms of knowledge.
Equation of State
  
Martha Atienza, Jake Atienza
exh

Equation of State

Martha Atienza, Jake Atienza

Equation of State. Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation. Photo by Marco Cappelletti.
Martha Atienza’s Equation of State III is part of a series that examines climate change and asks the viewer to question environmental management and socio-economic development. The installation is an entry point to community-based archival work on Bantayan Island in central Philippines from which it emerges. In “Equation of State”, 20 mangroves are pulled in and out of a reservoir of water by an Arduino-programmed mechanism surrounded by videos depicting slow moving images of an islet and young fishermen, Lando and Rodgie, moving in and out of the water. To accompany the installation at the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, we contextualize the installation by sharing archival material that sheds light on broader intersecting historical, political, and environmental issues and the work we have been doing with our community of collaborators. Equation of State is an opportunity to further examine ideas around control, specifically questioning legislation governing protection and destruction, both environmental and human as it relates to Bantayan Island.

When Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines' worst typhoon on record, hit Bantayan Island in 2013, all three towns of Madridejos, Santa Fe, and Bantayan faced near destruction. In the typhoon’s aftermath, the islands' coastal areas were designated as danger zones to protect coastal residents, mostly fisherfolk, from future climate disasters. However, the nonprofit sector has been complicit in paving the way for the privatization of land and the exploitation of the environment, since “international organizations were reluctant to fund reconstruction of houses on lands that do not have titles.” - a process spearheaded by politicians with vested interest in local real estate. Over 9,000 fisherfolk families, roughly 8% of Bantayan’s population, have since faced relocation to permanent government housing projects situated as far as three kilometers from the coast where commercial development is least valuable.

The relocation of coastal communities helps articulate a type of land grab that involves processes of top-down legislative imposition and dispossession originating during the country’s colonial occupation to the present. A pattern of ownership through legal texts emerges; the 1944 Terrain Study of Cebu under American occupation, the declaration of Bantayan Island as a Wilderness Area through Presidential Proclamation No. 2151 in 1981, the congressional filing of House Bill 1941(2013), House Bill 2127 (2016), and House Bill No. 4951 (2019) to remove Bantayan Island’s Wilderness Area status, the Bantayan Island Land Wilderness Area (BIWA) General Management Planning Strategy (2015), and House Bill 467 (2019) establishing a Special Economic Zone in the 4th District of Cebu. Amidst private and public sector efforts for commercialization and privatization, which especially affects coastal communities, we established an ordinance for a yearly ‘Adlaw sa Mananagat’ or ‘Fisherfolks Day’, aiming to give voice to fisherfolk (2022). These selected legal and government texts and documents are indicative of a struggle over place, its ownership, and dominion.

Timeline: Selected legal documents under US occupational government and Republic era (1944-2022). This shows an abbreviated shift from legal texts about Bantayan to legal text from Bantayanon.

The Philippines’ historical context of colonial occupation and current neoliberal system are two features that characterize Bantayan Island’s present situation. One is the historical context turning places into strategic sites of power, namely area studies examining the potential to convert beaches into military landing sites under American occupation. The other, are present corporate and public sector efforts to convert places into valuable commercial real estate. At present, we see the government continue to pivot to tourism turning fisherfolk and farmers into workers and turning coastal areas where fishing communities once raised families into commercial real estate. Beyond physical relocation, this process removes communities from culture and systems of knowledge tied to places of intergenerational connection.

As the landing site of Spanish conquistadors in 1521, framing legal texts as tools for control underscores the historical and ongoing practice requiring the claiming of places in order to make them into marketable commodities that can be owned. Having survived over three centuries under colonial by both Spanish and American empires and local dictatorial rule, the Philippines, including places like Bantayan, are subject to strategies and policies by a landed political elite ruling class aimed at accumulating wealth.

Document 1A: 1944, Terrain Study No. 100, Cebu-Bohol. This Terrain Study from 1944 under the American colonial rule provides a study of “areas of military importance”, including Bantayan Island and its islets (1944: Cover page, foreword, p. 3).
Document 1B: 1944, Terrain Study No. 100, Cebu-Bohol. This terrain Study from 1944 under the American colonial rule includes a map of Bantayan Island, its “anchorages”, “off-lying islands”, and “landing beaches” (1994: Map 24, pp. 135-136).
Document 1C: 1944, Terrain Study No. 100, Cebu-Bohol. This Terrain Study from 1944 under the American colonial rule includes a description of “shore and hinterland”, “roads and trails”, “rivers and streams”, “barge hideouts”, and “water supply” (1994: pp. 137-138).

In the broadest application of its definition and its particularities, Bantayan Island’s situation following Typhoon Yolanda, known internationally as Haiyan, points to the increasing emergence of “disaster capitalism” turning natural disasters into “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities” (Naomi Klein 2007:6). Accumulation and dispossession are core features of the economy at the expense of fisherfolk and other indigent communities. In this sense, the varying degrees of protective measures and commercialization efforts are indicative of “environmental management and the almost invisible hand of legislation that governs territorial land and waters.

Mangroves in Barangay Baigad, Bantayan Island (2020)

In Equation of State, mangrove trees are physically and conceptually at the center of this struggle for control on Bantayan Island.  The latest iteration of the installation comes after a lengthy years-long process, in which Martha Atienza has worked with her collaborators on Bantayan Island, Manila, and most recently in Diriyah. The first iteration of the installation in 2019 included the Rhizaphora Stylosa from Bantayan Island along with locally sourced materials programmed with an Arduino mechanism. The movements of mangrove plants are mechanically manipulated using an Arduino-programmed mechanism mimicking tidal patterns that submerge the plant in water for around 30% of their lifespan.

Mangroves are the most ‘natural’ disaster risk reduction and management structure and effective long-term carbon sinks. The Rhizophora stylosa is the most common planted Mangrove species here in the Philippines, especially post super typhoon Haiyan, as its propagules are easily harvested and planted. Mangroves need to be tidally inundated not more than 30% of the time. There are more than 26 species of Mangroves in the Philippines. The Rhizophora stylosa, though most commonly planted, may not always be the right species to plant in the areas chosen. Another common mistake made post Yolanda is the planting of these mangroves in sea grass areas.

The ‘Bantayan Island Wilderness Area (BIWA) General Management Planning Strategy’ found that the sum of mangrove areas on Bantayan Island amount to 567.13 hectares with 69.29% in “GOOD condition”. The report identifies the “[c]utting and unsustainable utilization of mangrove” by residents living near mangroves as a “major threat” to mangroves.  Without negating unsustainable individual behavior, policies tend to penalize socio-economically marginalized communities whose use of mangrove barks includes “tannin extraction used in coconut wine making” (2015:26;53). This framing, consequently, fails to address long-term systemic issues involving a long-term neoliberal agenda of extraction.

Through collaborative archiving, we challenge whose knowledge matters. Through archiving, we remember, acknowledge, and document the knowledge and day-to-day reality on Bantayan Island. The places we are raised and our families live. Here we recognize a historical shift, from knowledge produced about us to knowledge from us.

Together with other residents of Bantayan Island, we started petitioning to prevent the removal of the wilderness status. We visited public schools to meet with teachers and administrators to present what’s at stake and gather signatures which we sent to senators and governors in an attempt to gain political support to advocate for the rights of marginalized Bantayanon, especially fishing and farming communities, over corporate interests.

Mangroves ground a discourse on the relationship between humans and the environment, documenting both their decline and resiliency. While working in the context of Bantayan Island, Atienza’s recent visit to the mangrove forest in the Red Sea and showing the work at the Diriyah Biennale perhaps gives way for a way to rethink the political ecology of mangroves and fishing.

For the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Atienza was invited by KAUST University to visit a fisherfolk community and a mangrove forest along the Red Sea. In this latest iteration of the work, the locally sourced Pneumatophores (Aerial Roots) / Avicennia marina (grey/white mangrove) mangrove is included in the installation. KAUST’s Red Sea Research center is studying the mangrove forest, an area managed by the Health, Safety and Environment Department. The term itself, equation of state, borrows from mathematical equation that calculates the relationship between variables and a given set of physical conditions. This play with nature, or the manipulation thereof, that we see in Equation of State is an attempt to make sense of warming oceanic temperatures and subsequent rising sea levels, private and public sector intervention of ecosystems, while also juxtaposing daily life on Bantayan Island with larger, global economic and political forces.

A vendor shows the size of dried fish at a wet market along the Red Sea. Courtesy of Martha Atienza (2024)

Martha Atienza

In developing her films and video installations, Martha Atienza engages in a process that has a sociological dimension, investigating the potential of contemporary art as a tool for affecting social change and development. Atienza grounds her practice in her home on Bantayan Island in the Philippines, working from within her local community and initiating dialogue on the impact of climate change. Atienza received her bachelor’s in fine arts from the Academy of Visual Arts and Design in the Netherlands. She also won the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel for her seminal work Our Islands (2017) and was awarded the Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artist Award (2015).

Jake Atienza

Jake Atienza is an interdisciplinary researcher interested in mining, epistemology, violence, law and society, and the intersection of power and knowledge production as relevant to Cebu in the Philippines.
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