With support from OPCD, the UAE–Saudi creative collective Tinkah represented the UAE at the London Design Biennale in 2018 with an installation titled Time Is Subjective.
The piece was intended as an homage to the UAE’s landscape and history featuring 70 large hourglasses filled with sand. The work brought to mind the speed of the development of the country and the connection between the seven emirates.
The number of hourglasses evoked the most important decade in the UAE’s history: the 1970s, an era that saw the unification of the country and marked the start of its contemporary history.
The speed of change throughout the seven Emirates provides the primary inspiration for the installation. 7 rows of 10 hourglasses appear suspended in mid-air within the vaulted mezzanine space. The 7 rows rotate in a wave as if supporting each other to push forward and depict the UAE in a constant state of motion.
There is also a connection made to the individual observer. Whilst time is an inevitability it is also malleable – in youth, a year feels like forever, but as you grow a decade seemingly passes in a instant.
After being shown the installation and chatting animatedly to its creators, HE Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State, told The National newspaper: “We were very proud to come and see [the installation] because it had a very intelligent concept behind it. I am impressed by the designers’ idea of setting up this installation as a flux of time representing the seven emirates with 70 different hourglasses where you can see the sand slipping through and coming back every two hours.”
The UAE’s participation in the Biennale undoubtedly fits well with the goals of the newly-created Office for Public and Cultural Diplomacy; to forge new and strengthen old cultural ties and give different perceptions of Emirati culture to the wider world.