Anna Seaman | January 30, 2014
A fourth year student from New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi has been named the winner of the second annual Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award.
Erin Meekhof, an American, was awarded for her work in the research of the visual components of language. Through a course in linguistics, she discovered that the Arabic and Roman alphabets had a common root in the Phoenician alphabet. Meekhof then proposed an art installation, Abjad, to be made of five large wooden sculptures, each representing a different phoneme, or unit of sound, and the history of how its visual representation developed in English and Arabic.
She was selected from 27 entries for the award, held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan and presented by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF).
“Reconstructing the letters like this creates a new letter; one that still represents a single sound but tells two histories,” Meekhof said. “Abjad is a response to myself before living here, to those who see either language and culture as hopelessly foreign, and to those who live in bilingual worlds and want to find out what’s at the bottom of it,” she continued. “I want every viewer to go through a process of discovery in engaging with these sculptures, and to be challenged to rethink their own linguistic divisions and assumptions.”
The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established to encourage and celebrate large-scale public art in the UAE. Meekhof’s final work will be unveiled on March 16, as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival Education Programme, and will tour throughout the UAE.