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by Andrew Ross
On Saadiyat Island, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, branches of iconic cultural institutions, including the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the British Museum and New York University, are taking shape to the designs of starchitects such as Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, and Norman Foster. In this way, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seeks to burnish its reputation as a sophisticated destination for wealthy visitors and residents. Beneath the glossy veneer of the Saadiyat real estate plan, however, lies a tawdry reality. Those laboring on the construction sites are migrant workers who arrive from poor countries heavily indebted as a result of recruitment and transit fees. Once in the UAE the sponsoring employer takes their passports, houses them in sub-standard labor camps, pays much less than they were promised, and enforces a punishing work regimen. If they protest publicly, they risk arrest, beatings, and deportation. For five years, the Gulf Labor Coalition, a cosmopolitan group of artists and writers, has been pressuring Saadiyat’s Western cultural brands to ensure worker protections. Gulf Labor has coordinated a boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and pioneered innovative direct action that has involved several spectacular museum occupations. As part of a year-long initiative, an array of artists, writers, and activists submitted a work, a text, or an action. Contextualized by essays that trace how Gulf Labor has evolved, their contributions are reproduced in this book. The result is a compelling chronicle of a campaign at the forefront of a new wave of world-wide cultural activism. Written contributions by: Haig Aivazian, Mounira Al Solh, Ayreen Anastas, Kadambari Baxi, Doris Bittar, Jordan Carver, Paula Chakravartty, Nitasha Dhillon, Rene Gabri, Mariam Ghani, the Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.), Hans Haacke, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Naeem Mohaiemen, Walid Raad, Andrew Ross, Gregory Sholette and Mabel Wilson. Artwork contributions by: Hend Al Mansour, Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, Todd Ayoung and Jelena Stojanovic, Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker, Zanny Begg and Oliver Ressler, Emily Verla Bovino, CAMP, Collective of Artists, Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Sam Durant, Claire Fontaine, Andrea Fraser, Mariam Ghani, Paul Graham, G.U.L.F., Gulf Labor West, Hans Haacke, Rawi Hage, Pablo Helguera, Thomas Hirschhorn, Aaron Hughes and Sarah Farahat, The Illuminator, John Jurayj, Janet Koenig, Silvia Kolbowski, Lynn Love and Ann Sappenfield, Guy Mannes-Abbott, Mazatl, Pat McElnea, Jasa Mrevlje, Marina Naprushkina, Jenny Polak, Walid Raad, Georges Rabbath, Jayce Salloum, Rasha Salti, Dread Scott, Gregory Sholette and Matthew Greco, Andreas Siekmann and Alice Creischer, Nida Sinnokrot, Situ Studio, Suha Traboulsi and Jaret Vadera.
ISBN: 978-1-682190-04-3
Publisher: OR books
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