- 1 June 2023
- 5 minutes
Before coming to the College she studied Visual Communication at Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah. Studying at the RCA helped her to establish a context for her practice within contemporary art.
Ahaad's work prompts conversations around historic and contemporary narratives emerging from Saudi Arabia by showcasing the region's reforming ethnography.
You recently collaborated with Roberto Cavalli, creating a digital artwork featuring liquid gold merging with the iconic animal prints of the brand for advertising campaigns in the Middle East. How did this collaboration come about and what was it like making work for such a huge fashion brand?
They came to me because of my work in print; the Roberto Cavalli brand is known for its exotic prints. They were quite open with how I could approach the concept of the piece but they wanted it to be rooted in the type of work that I create.
The experience was something extremely new for me. I have never collaborated with a big brand like that before, so it was a learning process; understanding what they need, how it needs to be represented, the quality of work, and how to stay grounded in my own approach.
Liquid Dune, Ahaad Alamoudi x Roberto Cavalli, 2023
For the Noor Riyadh Festival in November 2022 you made an installation ‘Ghosts of Today and Tomorrow’, which explores light and sound as carriers of information. Could you tell us a bit more about this work?
The work consists of two pigeon towers, within them were two ‘Majes’ performers. These singers perform a vocal piece, which is local to the region that I'm from in Saudi Arabia. It's a type of singing, Mawwal. Traditionally, they would go out to the street and sing announcements for weddings or other events. Now it's become much more of a folklore element within the community.
When the performer sang within the structure, the pigeon tower lit up and protruded light beams, when silent the structure lay dormant. One tower represents darkness and one represents light. They have a conversation with one another, arguing about who is the most powerful. By the end of the performance they realise they're inseparable and sing Arabic pop songs to one another.
How did you find making work on this scale?
I've always staged or created elements for my video pieces, whether it's printed fabric or objects within the scene itself. For this I had to work with an architect to help me build the structures. They are based on traditional pigeon towers found across the middle east and I wanted them to be as authentic as possible. So we actually used mud from the region to create them.
“I use signs and symbols within my work that carry a lot of heavy connotations. I like to take them out of the original context and place them within a different space to create different narratives within these new worlds that I create or collage together.”PhD student
Those Who Don’t Know Falcons Grill Them, Ahaad Alamoudi, 2018
These works take quite different forms – one inhabiting the digital realm, the other in a physical space – but both explore aspects of Saudi Arabian identity and history. Could you summarise your practice, what are your key interests?
I use signs and symbols within my work that carry a lot of heavy connotations. I like to take them out of the original context and place them within a different space to create different narratives within these new worlds that I create or collage together. It's a way of establishing my voice within a lot of ideas that are placed onto me, in terms of how people from both outside and within Saudi Arabia see the country.
Self-portrait as a Pomegranate, Ahaad Alamoudi, 2017
What were your expectations of the MA Print programme, and were they met?
I knew that I was going to learn different methods of printing, which I did. What I didn't expect was how interdisciplinary the programme was and how theoretical the approach to print was. That really helped broaden my perspective of what print is, and understand its relationship to visual communication.
“Being at the RCA gives you the tools to represent yourself within the art world. It gives context to your work, which allows you to navigate different spaces within different systems.”PhD student
Land of Dreams, Ahaad Alamoudi, 2018
In what ways has your practice continued to be supported by your experiences of MA study?
Being at the RCA gives you the tools to represent yourself within the art world. It gives context to your work, which allows you to navigate different spaces within different systems. Writing about the things I was making gave me the distance and perspective that I needed for my work.
A lot of things are happening back home. There's a lot of changes and the speed of it is quite overwhelming at times. When you're there you're immersed in it and don't have time to stop and create. Usually when I'm here, in London, I’m researching and I'm writing about a lot of things I'm making. Having this pause is very necessary.
Ahaad Alamoudi solo exhibition 'Heat Burns', Athr Gallery, Jeddah, 2020
You are now doing a PhD within the School of Arts and Humanities. Could you talk about your research?
I'm looking at what we just discussed, which is the changes that are happening within Saudi Arabia. I'm studying, through writing, what is lost and what is gained through that process, in relation to the work that I'm producing.
Specifically, I’m looking at Saudi Vision 2030 [a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors]. I’m studying and analysing that and seeing its impact on a landscape that is constantly evolving.
Makwah Man, Ahaad Alamoudi, 2020
Can you give an example of a work you have made addressing this topic as part of your PhD research?
The video installation The Green Light, is one of the works I made as part of my PhD. It highlights different states of reformation and adaptation which are experienced within a transitioning space. As we begin to reform, adapt and evolve in this state of time, voices and messages begin to emerge and take light, while others are blurred, and some are no longer heard.
In the piece, eighteen men stand on a plinth and chant lyrics to an Arabic pop song, only when green light is shone on them. Throughout the performance each form is constructed and deconstructed as the light switches on and off. When the light is switched off the messages they hold lay dormant, once the light is on then the messages continue to spread and form a new whole.
Together through their repetition and occupation of space manifest new truths and new realities as a result of one action. The work challenges how ideas can spread and manifest from one mimicked form to another, constantly creating new simulacrums.
The Green Light, Ahaad Alamoudi, 2022
Why are artworks a useful way to explore this topic?
Through them we are able to build worlds that can inform the time we live in today. Art is a medium of connection and communication.
What does it mean to do a practice based research degree?
For me it's been a constant process of trying to figure out the right balance between my practice and my writing. My practice governs a lot of the things that I write and it's the source of a lot of answers as well.
“My practice governs a lot of the things that I write and it's the source of a lot of answers as well.”PhD student