‘The Water Clock’ at Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre, Riyadh

‘The Water Clock’ at Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre, Riyadh

The exhibition “Unfolding the Embassy” at Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre in Riyadh, curated by Sara Almutlaq, takes visitors on a journey that explores the intersection between art and the future trajectories of 2040 aboard a fictional Space-X satellite. Approaching the theme of ‘Now in the Future’ the exhibition examines the complexities of the present through the prism of speculative futures through the work of contemporary Saudi and international artists set within a scenography by Studio GGSV.

Prominently installed at the centre of the exhibition is The Water Clock by Dima Srouji, a work that draws on the historical significance of an ancient timekeeping device dating back to 4000 BCE, as a poignant reminder for those in a perpetual state of limbo waiting for their visas to be granted. 

Installation View of Dima Srouji, The Water Clock, at Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centrin Riyadh. ©Dezeen

Srouji’s work resonates deeply within the thematic framework of “Unfolding the Embassy”: the exhibition’s exploration of futuristic narratives and the impact of fiction on societal constructs finds a powerful expression in The Water Clock as the piece reflects on the arbitrary nature of time and borders, questioning the structures that define and confine human movement and potential. In this way, the water clock becomes a metaphor for the broader human condition, where time is both an ally and an adversary.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and set within a recreated embassy waiting room, the work commands both attention and introspection, evoking the timeless act of waiting — waiting for visas, permits, and the elusive nod of approval from bureaucratic institutions.

The visual and sensory impact of The Water Clock is heightened by its placement amidst other works exploring themes such as the global economy, the Anthropocene era, and artificial intelligence. As visitors traverse the exhibition, Srouji’s installation offers a moment of pause—a space to contemplate the personal and collective futures we are all waiting to unfold. It challenges viewers to consider how much of our lives are spent in a state of suspended animation, awaiting external validation or permission to move forward.

Installation View of Dima Srouji, The Water Clock, at Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre in Riyadh. ©Dezeen

“Water Clock” is not merely an artwork but a narrative device, a call to reflect on the lived experiences of countless individuals worldwide. It poignantly captures the intersection of art, society, and the future, embodying the exhibition’s overarching question posed by Almutlaq: “At the depth of Truth, do we find the landscape of the arbitrary?” Through the lens of Srouji’s water clock, we are reminded that time, often taken for granted, is a profound element of our existence, shaping and reflecting our deepest anxieties and hopes.

Exhibition Details
Unfolding the Embassy curated by Sara Almutlaq
16 May – 1 September 2024
Fenaa Alawwal Cultural Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia