Unlikely partnership: collaborative arts series

Over the centuries artwork has offered a window into foreign lands, allowing outsiders to gauge an understanding of cultures vastly different from their own. When contemporary performance artist Christian Jankowski from Berlin teamed up with Emirati curator Rami Farook in Dubai, the two came up with a unique concept for documenting all the emirate has to offer

A new BBC World News series, Collaboration Culture, seeks to highlight just how effective art can be at bringing two disparate social outlooks and cultural traditions together.

Travelling to Mumbai, Ghana, Trinidad, New York, Dubai, Lima and Tokyo, the series pairs 14 creative and celebrated figures from the worlds of fashion, dance, music, food and art, including a Bollywood dancer working with an Arab-American classical composer, and a British artist in collaboration with a Ghanaian coffin sculptor.

The latest episode follows contemporary performance artist Christian Jankowski from his home city of Berlin to Dubai to meet Emirati curator Rami Farook, who founded contemporary art gallery Traffic, a multipurpose industrial space drawing on the Middle East’s cultural heritage and attracting a diverse crowd.

Motivated by the idea of how art can influence people’s social perceptions, Farook explains: “I have a fascination of how the artist can become an instigator of change. Dubai is interesting because first of all you have your freedom, you have this clear set of rules, some of them written, some unwritten but respected no matter what. On the other side you have the ability to collaborate with different cultures.”

German artist Christian Jankowski is well known for setting his performances within the context of everyday life, and places as much emphasis on the journey as the destination. So it’s little surprise, then, that Jankowski and Farook came up with a unique concept for documenting the whole of his three-day trip to Dubai: “To come to Dubai blindfolded was a way to open up a new way of making a film…I never heard of a movie, shot, directed and filmed, recorded, sound recorded all blind.”

Confusing encounters

For Jankowski, his tour of the emirate without the use of his sight led to a number of confusing encounters: “When I arrived at the gold market, I thought I was in a zoo for quite a while, until I started talking to a few people. And Ski Dubai was such a contrast to the heat; we were asked to put socks on and I wondered why… then it dawned on me.”

Keen to share his Emirati heritage and tradition, Farook also arranged for Jankowski to come face to face with the UAE’s national bird, the falcon – and the cultural and artistic significance was not lost on the German artist.

“Meeting a falcon gave this kind of performance another layer. Traditionally, falcons have been housed or trained using a blindfold to calm them down and before they go hunting. I thought how amazing to sit in front of it and tell it a story… though it didn’t seem impressed!’

Collaboration Culture, broadcast in association with Emirates, will air weekly on BBC World News from 30 June on Saturdays at 00:30; 07:30, and Sundays at 12:30; 18:30 (all times GMT).