Night School 2024: There You Are

Join architect and writer Todd Reisz this January for the third season of Night School, where UAE residents shape discussions around urbanism, history and their intersection at the port city of Dubai. Under this season’s theme, There You Are, participants will assess how much we can know about a place just by taking a good look around.

Each of us, at any given moment, is pinned to a single spot on the planet. You are here, announces the pulsating dot on your smartphone. With your feet on the ground, you seek out landmarks to get your bearings. A snappy jingle on a billboard, a briny wind reaching you from Dubai Creek, and the heightening calls of migrating birds: all of these might help you grasp your place in the world.

Your field of perception is vast, hemmed in by the horizon—that unmappable line that affords you balance and also the promise of imminent change at its cusp.

Knowing one’s whereabouts is the only way to move on.

Six scholars and experts will join us in seminars to share how they observe Dubai and other complex landscapes from their given coordinates. Together, we will explore ways of reading our environment, including those aspects that never seem to budge and others that escape first glance.

Everyone is welcome to apply for the free four-week course, but seats are limited and determined by an admission process. The requirements: a commitment to attend all seven seminar sessions and three public events; and proficiency in reading English texts. Prior academic experience is not required. The seminars will meet from January 7 until January 24, on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, 7:00–9:30 p.m. Public events are scheduled for the evenings of January 13, 20 and 27. Those accepted will be contacted in mid-December. Applications are now closed.

This year’s invited guests, each of whom will lead one of the season’s seminars, are: Meitha AlMazrooei, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Ashraf El-Taher, Timothy Power, Dariush Zandi, and Nadi Abusaada.

Night School 2024 will feature 3 public events, open to all upon registration:

  • Saturday, January 13, 2024, 7:00–9:00pm: Public lecture by Deepak Unnikrishnan. More information here.
  • Saturday, January 20, 2024, 7:00–9:30pm: Traversing Landscapes: Hind Mezaina presents five short films by artists and filmmakers that foreground landscapes as poignant locales of memory and being. More information here.
  • Saturday, February 3, 2024, 6:30–8:00pm: Book Launch: Dr. Rana AlMutawa‘s much-anticipated book Everyday Life in the Spectacular City: Making Home in Dubai (UC Press, 2024). Dr. Neha Vora, professor of anthropology at American University of Sharjah, will join her for a discussion about observing cities. More information here.

Todd Reisz
 is the author of Showpiece City: How Architecture Made Dubai (Stanford University Press, 2020) which explores architecture’s packaging to sell Dubai on a global stage. At Jameel Arts Centre, he curated the exhibition Off Centre/On Stage (2021), wrote the eponymous publication (Khatt Books, 2021) and led the first Night School (2022). He also co-edited with Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi Building Sharjah (Birkhäuser, 2021), an archival investigation of that city’s vanishing 20th-century landscape.

Image courtesy of Todd Reisz.