In Conversation with Alia Farid and Abdullah Al-Mutairi

In collaboration with Swiss Institute, this online conversation brings together curator Alia Farid and artist Abdullah Al-Mutairi to discuss alternative pedagogies and educational infrastructures through the research and works in the exhibition ‘The Space Between Classrooms.’ Currently on view in New York, the exhibition takes as a starting point the prototype for schools that Alfred Roth designed for Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works during the late 1960s, a period of rapid modernisation for the newly flourishing oil state. Roth, a celebrated Swiss modernist architect, developed prefabricated schools that were to be replicated in each district across the country. The exhibition opens with Roth’s specific architectural prototype and its influence on the Gulf state. A key work by Abdullah Al Mutairi reconstructs elements and scenes from the Roth schools to examine the use and afterlife of these modernist buildings.

The talk is moderated by Alison Coplan, Curator at Swiss Institute and the organiser of the exhibition.


About the speakers

Alia Farid (b.1985) lives and works in Kuwait and Puerto Rico. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from la Escuela de Artes Plásticas (San Juan, Puerto Rico), a Master of Science in Visual Studies from the Visual Arts Program at MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies and Critical Theory from the MACBA Independent Studies Program (Barcelona, Spain). Through a multidisciplinary practice that ranges from writing and drawing to film, sculpture, and installation, her work gives visibility to narratives that are obscured by hegemonic power.

She has had recent solo exhibitions at Portikus, Frankfurt and Kunstinstituut Melly (formerly known as Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art), Rotterdam. Recent and upcoming group shows include participation in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, the 12th Gwangju Biennale, Sharjah Biennial 14, Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2001 at MoMA PS1, and Yokohama Triennale 2020. In 2018-19 she was an award recipient of the Art Jameel Commission in the area of sculpture, as well as a grant recipient of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). She has forthcoming solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAMSTL), St. Louis in 2022 and The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto in 2023.

Abdullah Al-Mutairi (b.1990) is a writer and curator based in Kuwait. As a participant in this year’s Hayy Learning: Curatorial Fellowship, he is researching visual cultures and the notion of the image in relation to modernity and in local formal/informal collecting practices. Abdullah is an artist, member of GCC collective and currently the Assistant Gallery Director at Sultan Gallery, Kuwait.

About Swiss Institute

Swiss Institute (SI) is an independent non-profit contemporary art institution dedicated to promoting forward-thinking and experimental art making through innovative exhibitions, education, and programs. Committed to the highest standards of curatorial and educational excellence, SI serves as a platform for emerging artists, catalyzes new perspectives on celebrated work, and fosters appreciation for under-recognized positions. SI is committed to being an organization that is diverse, equitable, and accessible in its work, structure, and programming. Open to the public free-of-charge, Swiss Institute seeks to explore how a Swiss context can be the starting point for international conversations in the fields of visual and performing arts, design, and architecture.