* QF partner-university’s locally-flavoured audio tracks set to inspire global audience
‘Sonic Jeel’, an artist collective made up of students, faculty and alumni from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner-university, has been invited to perform virtually on ‘The Stage’ as part of the ongoing New York-based Printed Matter Virtual Art Book Fair (PMVABF) that will conclude on Sunday, February 28.
The Qatar-based collective’s performance – slated for Sunday — will be part of a lineup of artists and exhibitors from over 40 countries for the international event that traditionally has a physical presence in New York; this year will be the first time that Printer Matter’s popular art fair is held solely online.
In addition to ‘Sonic Jeel’, the legendary American editor, writer, interviewer, musician V Vale of RE/Search Publications, and the mystic Laraaji who specialises in piano, zither and mbira, are a few of the artists scheduled to take part.
Viewers and sound design enthusiasts tuning in from across the world to watch ‘Sonic Jeel’ will be served up an audio-visual experience with a local flavour – the collective’s entire 45-minute performance was filmed over a three-day period against the backdrop of Alkoot Fort near Souq Waqif, and the Qatar Art Center.
The performance will feature curated tracks from ‘Sonic Jeel’s upcoming vinyl album to be released in the Spring of 2021.
Faculty members Michael Hersrud (associate professor, Graphic Design), Simone Muscolino (director, Art Foundation), and Hadeer Omar (assistant professor, Art Foundation) joined VCUarts Qatar students Latifa AlSulaiti, Naima Almajdobah, and Maryam Altajer, and VCUarts Qatar alumni Marwa Al Kalbani, Reham Mohamed, Sarah Elawad, and Sara Al Afifi in the ‘Sonic Jeel’ recordings at Alkoot Fort and Qatar Art Center.
For Latifa AlSulaiti, a Class of 2021 Graphic Design student, the experience provided proof of the versatility of design in areas related to technology.
“I was thrilled to be part of an event that breaks the stereotypes of traditional art and design,” AlSulaiti said.“Throughout the years of my studies, I discovered my love for sound design, and have since enjoyed designing audio tracks and music.
"It was exciting to be invited to participate in a popular international event hosted by Printed Matter – and that too, one that showcases the fantastic outcome of pairing design with technology.”
Reham Mohamed a Class of 2019 Graphic Design graduate, was one of the alumni invited to take part in the recording – an opportunity which she describes as nothing short of ‘a blast!’
“I’ve always been a fan of Printed Matter, so getting a chance to perform in front of such a global audience is an honour,” she said.“I was part of the first class to take the Sonic Jeel elective, and I am truly happy to see how far it’s come and where it’s going.
“The elective opened up the way for experimental design with the incorporation of sound and graphic visuals to create performance art – as graphic designers we became music creators, performers, visualisers, you name it! The fluidity, the opportunities we are exposed to while at VCUarts Qatar is awesome – and that’s something that Sonic Jeel extends to the local community in Doha and the wider region.”
‘Sonic Jeel’ – Jeel means ‘generation’ in Arabic – was started three years ago by VCUarts Qatar faculty Hersrud and Muscolino.
The collective explores sound, electronic music, hybrid-media and audiovisual subculture in Qatar and the Middle East region.
Conceived both as a research project and education endeavour, ‘Sonic Jeel’ oversees an interdisciplinary elective course – titled ‘Sonic Exploration’ – that is open to all art and design students at VCUarts Qatar who are keen to design sound; experimental audio work produced by students in this course become part of an ongoing SoundCloud archive.
Explaining the event further, Hersrud noted how the collective afforded students a unique opportunity to work with emergent technologies.
“VCUarts Qatar already has several strong art and design programmes and has been helping shape the creative community in Doha for over 20 years,” the VCUarts Qatar faculty member said.“As part of these programmes, students and faculty have always explored new forms of emergent media, from physical computing, to coding, to sound, to virtual reality, to projection mapping.
This project integrated several of these areas.
“For instance, the audio tracks produced by ‘Sonic Jeel’ are not only an exploration of sound, but examine various software and hardware tools that use automation and generative processes to create beats, rhythms and noise, as well.
"These tracks are complemented by choreographed projections – a process overseen by media artist and VCUarts faculty Hadeer Omar – to map architectural spaces in real-time.
"Working with emergent technologies in a collaborative and hybrid scenario is the future of creative practice for artists and designers, and we intend to expand these initiatives toward more media offerings at VCUarts Qatar in the future,” he added.
Printed Matter Inc is the world’s leading non-profit organisation dedicated to the distribution, understanding and appreciation of artists’ books.
Since 2005, Printed Matter’s Art Book Fairs have hosted international exhibitors featuring a wide variety of published works—from zines and artists’ books to rare and out of print publications, and contemporary art editions.
This year’s online presence means that even more exhibitors and visitors will be able to access and participate in the fair.
Over the course of the five-day-fair, PMVABF has been turned into an expo of sorts, allowing visitors to learn about and purchase contemporary art books from all around the world.
Visitors can attend dozens of free live and pre-recorded programmes, chat directly with artists and publishers from across time zones, play games to discover new books being launched at the fair, enjoy performances by a range of musicians, and connect with other visitors.