Marwah AlMugait (b. 1981, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) is a multimedia artist whose conceptual practice centers on photography, film, and performance. Her work encompasses a wide variety of themes but focuses on overlooked aspects of life, particularly with regards to issues of cultural environment and the human condition. She investigates how one's internal state is informed by engagement with the external world and how this is manifested in bodily reactions. In recent years, she has been exploring performance arts, which stems from her interest in the human subconscious and the ways in which civilizations have used body and voice to communicate deep emotions throughout history.
This project came from a need to increase public awareness of bipolar disorder in Saudi Arabia, as well as aiming to reduce the level of stigma associated with mental illness.
The subject, "The Thobe", and its accessories has been part of the male identity in the region for decades, this piece has always a strong presence in many of his life events.
Four items have been chosen to be represented in this project, as they form a complete cycle of the male costume. Each comes from a different period of time with four different intimate stories; Thobe, Bisht, Shomagh, and Oqal.
A video installation piece combined with stills of captured motion were developed from an exploration of internal regression, where the artist manifests the struggle of dealing with both destructive and creative sides.
Secrets To God
Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, Verse 186:
"Indeed I am near"
Engraved on a reflective mirror
We Were is a video installation that revolves around the intensity of the hidden human connections, embodying the nature of the emotional cycle in the context of relations and communications between one another. It’s an endeavour to manifest visually the birth of the bond, the collective energy and it’s temporality, ending with the evanescence of these connections.
This body of work traces, in particular, how humans process the fast motion of relations, forming multiple layers of memories and the ability to define the notion of departure and disappearance after the termination of each emotional cycle. Perceiving the body language as a medium of expression and a form of a dialogue, this piece demonstrates the power of the human connectivity and the fragility of isolation through performing a motion of patterns.
AlBunt (2019) is a 3D projection mapping depicting an abstracted visual representation of the historic Bab al-Bunt Museum and its strategic geographical location. Projected onto the outer wall of the museum itself, it is a visual narrative of the more than one-hundred-year-old story of the expansion of the sea into the heart of Jeddah, where Al-Bunt acted as the main port, the customs authority and the marina.
I Lived Once
This large-scale video installation places the viewer amid a powerful group performance that translates processes from nature, including the reactive, unconscious defense mechanisms of organisms in danger. The artist has devised a physical language of cyclical and synchronized gestures with choreographer Lamees AlSaddique, drawing on diverse actions such as the ‘shimmering’ of honeybees and the Mimosa Pudica’s signature ‘touch me not’ folding movement.
The abstract, fictional narrative considers modes of co-existence connected to and modeled on nature. By observing and enacting these gestures, the film hints at alternative structures, shapes, and patterns, outside of the often hierarchical order of human society. By considering the balance and harmony inherent in nature, the ego fades into the collective. The absorbing and meditative motion quiets the tension and anxiety of individual human reason to suggest the power of the group.
May We Meet Again
This project explores the notion of infinite spaces and the possibility of creating an alternative reality through various narratives. It is based on the vital connection between its location, at the Saudi National Museum, and the people who inhabit this space and are mostly residents of the area, who come from different countries and cultural backgrounds. It is an attempt to manifest this bond through a common universal language. Poetry is a fundamental element in this artwork, as it communicates directly to the viewers in different languages, allowing them to be an essential part of the work and inviting them into a more intimate and personal experience. A montage of abstract footage manifests these poems visually, projected on a water screen on the roof of the museum in an endeavor to humanize a space that is relevant and familiar to residents and regular visitors. They will be able to interact and experiment with performance, light and film and be transported to an alternative reality, to a joyful fantasy world, where the familiar becomes unfamiliar.
This Sea is Mine
The performance piece This Sea is Mine uses vocals and movements to revive ancient practices and create a new form of transcultural solidarity in an era marked by geopolitical friction, mass migration, and diaspora. In the piece, AlMugait incorporates three chants that originated in different indigenous populations.
The first is a traditional Oriental chant, a spiritual form with an improvisational element. The next is a South African Xhosa chant, a call to ancestors typically sung by elder women in the tribe and accompanied by clapping and movement. Finally, Fĳiri is a folk sea chant that has been practiced in Arabian Gulf countries for decades as an auspicious ritual for sailors and pearl divers.