This fall, Warehouse421 is taking you back to your senses with a season full of programs for your eyes, ears and much more! Sink into your body as we bring back our outdoor film program with Cinema Akil, close your eyes as our incense workshop entices your nose, focus on your fingertips as our calligraphy course guides your penmanship, listen in on one of our monthly Khayal story-time sessions, and don’t forget to support your creative community by visiting our CLU market! Whatever you’re looking for this fall, we have a taste, a whiff, or a touch of it here at Warehouse421!


The season will inaugurate our newly renovated spaces with two exhibitions: So Different, So Appealing curated by Murtaza Vali; and As We Gaze Upon Her curated by Banat Collective.


If you would like to propose a workshop, please use this form.


Please note that as per Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism regulation, a "green" status on the Al Hosn app is required for participation and attendance of any workshops, talks, and in-space events. In addition, a 96-hour negative PCR test result is required of those who are 18 and above.


So Different, So Appealing

16 October - 23 January
10:00 - 20:00

So Different, So Appealing

Curated by Murtaza Vali

Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Gulf city emerged as an important and much emulated model for urban development, a process of rapid expansion in which the luxury real estate sector played an integral part. Seemingly overnight, towering skylines erupted, dotted with glittering examples of iconic architecture that helped brand the city abroad. Coastlines were imaginatively redrawn, with fantastically intricate manmade islands formed from dredged sand maximizing much coveted beach-front lots and sea views. Speculations and projections abounded, many eventually unrealized and abandoned.

One might consider this particular model of real estate development as an example of what architectural theorist Keller Easterling calls a “spatial product”— an infrastructural logic or protocol, a formula or schematic for enacting urbanism. It presents a neoliberal paradigm in which housing is understood not primarily as a space for dwelling and a civic right, as it had been previously, but as an engine of economic growth and a vehicle for financial investment. The profound transformations wrought by this process manifest not just spatially, at the scale of the urban, but also symbolically and affectively. Real estate rewires culture and behavior. It breeds aspiration, desire, and fantasy. It engenders particular kinds of images and statements, gestures and lifestyles. Its effects ripple out beyond and across the built environment, through a growing compulsion to consume and an ever-expanding economy of high-end goods and services to satisfy it. The countless new apartments and villas need to be furnished, decorated, cleaned and maintained, after all.

So Different, So Appealing examines the aesthetics, rhetorics, and rituals of the real estate industry, unpacking the strategies through which it conjures up its many seductions, aspirations, and desires. The included works use humor, parody, appropriation, and mimesis, uncovering the perverse logic of marketing speak by highlighting its banality or pushing it to the point of absurdity. The promotional is revealed as pathological, pleasing platitudes that mask deep alienation. The perfectly-rehearsed sales pitch devolves into an insane litany. The colonial and racial bases of exotic home décor are wryly laid bare. A set of notices regulating daily life in high-rise buildings deflate much of its imagined glamor. Neoliberal real estate is, by definition, transnational, and works in So Different, So Appealing also track its offshore networks. As tools for attracting foreign investment, high end real estate developments frequently market themselves abroad, projecting their aspirational projections across and beyond borders. And migrant workers remit these emergent aesthetics and aspirations alongside their hard-earned wages, displacing the hegemony of older local architectural styles back home.

The specter of a bust haunts every boom. Recession rudely interrupts the exuberance of speculation. Ambitious expansion shifts existing urban dynamics, establishing new “hearts” while arresting older ones. In other contexts, gentrification is wielded as a strategy of occupation and dispossession. So Different, So Appealing tempers the triumphalist hyperbole of the new that characterizes real estate aesthetics through the inclusion of works that reflect on these attendant processes of decay, demolition, and displacement. These works quietly mark the presence and memory of some of the inevitable but uncanny ruins left in the wake of rapid urban expansion: a long-neglected relic of an earlier, more modest decade of urbanization now slated for demolition; an unfinished tower complex, a likely victim of corruption or a burst bubble, that became an inadvertent neighborhood landmark and whose long overdue razing became a media spectacle. Together they memorialize an eagerly eclipsed past and a prematurely foreclosed future, bracketing the irrepressible and vital present of real estate.


Image courtesy of Ishara Art Foundation and The Prabhakar Collection.

Vivek Vilasini, Housing Dreams, 2011.


Substructures: Excavating the Everyday, is a series of exhibitions that investigates some of the infrastructures that shape the spaces, contours and rhythms of Gulf urbanism, revealing forms and networks so embedded within the Khaleeji quotidian that they are commonly overlooked. Rather than the provisions and facilities most commonly associated with the term “infrastructure”—those related to transportation, communication, energy, water and waste—the series focuses on those that might be considered somewhat more “intimate” or “lively,” that mediate between public and private spaces, between exterior and interior lives, between politics and the body, and that are constitutive of and constituted by affects and desires, labor and leisure, and nature and the domestic. Topics and themes addressed include: the politics of representation around images of manual labor; the isolation and alienation often felt by overseas Filipino workers and the rituals of self-care, leisure and community they have developed to keep them at bay; the instrumentalization of flora by capital and politics, a process that arrests the vitality of botanical life reducing it to a color, a verb, an image, a commodity and a screen; and the aesthetic and affective protocols of real estate in the age of neoliberalism.