10 Minutes Fatima Uzdenova

Fatima Uzdenova is an artist based between UK, UAE and North Caucasus. Uzdenova was born in Karachay-Cherkess Republic in USSR prior to moving to United Arab Emirates in 1995.

Fatima holds a MA Sculpture degree from the Royal College of Art, London,United Kingdom. She is an alumni of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF), cohort of 2015-2016, in partnership with Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, United States of America. Uzdenova’s practice is moored in the idea of a garden as a place of conquest, a spiritual terrain, and as source of nourishment(s). Her practice rangers from sculpture to performance, audio walkatives to writing and her research is currently focused on colonial botany and the ‘fictive’ as methodology to explore legacy of colonisation, geo-political histories and Russian Orientalism.

For the 10th edition of “10 Minute Interviews” Huma Kabakcı conducts a short Q&A with Fatima Uzdenova around her practice, her role at Tashkeel in Dubai, her hobbies, challenges and what she is working on at the moment.

How has your practice evolved based on where you come from and where you are living now?                                                                                                                    

 I’ve lived in the UAE since the mid 90s so Dubai is both my “from” and “where”. I have found myself in a similar rhythm as at Royal College of Art (RCA): thinking, reading and researching, peppered with bursts of experimentation and hopefully soon, sustained making. Alserkal Arts Foundation has very generously let me use one of their studios at Alserkal Avenue and that’s where all of the making and playing now happens, instead of my bedroom or the dining table. 

I watch Louise Bourgeois Peel a Tangerine by Fatima Uzdenova

Following your Masters at RCA, London you have moved back to Dubai. You have also been involved with Tashkeel, can you talk a bit more about your involvement and the studios, programmes there?                                               

Tashkeel is a membership organisation, which is truly unique in terms of what it offers to its members. There are shared and individual workspaces, a dark room, digital lab, laser-cutter, sublimation printer, risograph machine, printmaking and textile studios, just to name a few. We run a seasonal programme of talks, workshops, courses and lectures, both for the general public and art practitioners as well as children.

There are also a number of exhibitions that take place throughout the year and fantastic programmes for designers (Tanween) and artists (Critical Practice Programme). As the Studio & Engagement Manager, I manage the Critical Practice Programme, residencies,  studios,  seasonal programming and some of the exhibitions. 

What do you love to do in your free time? 

There is very little of it so I am actively learning to rest when possible, without feeling guilty. Other than that, I go for long walks, read and now the weather is great, I try to go to the beach before or after work.

For All The Tea in China by Fatima Uzdenova
Image courtesy of Claudia Contu

What has been your biggest challenge? What influenced your practice? 

Biggest challenge right now – and that’s a reality for a lot of people – is balancing work, trying to sustain an artistic practice and staying sane, whilst living through a pandemic and what it feels like a rapture in the world as we know it. There is a lot of unravelling, unlearning and re-learning. 

What does diversity mean to you? 

Representation, a seat at the table, justice, equality,  acceptance, a celebration. 

If you could collaborate with anyone living or deceased, who would it be? 

Right now it would be Sofu Teshigahara, one of the greatest Ikebana masters. 

Study for a seascape, a work in progress by Fatima Uzdenova

What are you working on at the moment? 

At the moment, I am  in a remote residency with Warehouse421, continuing to explore what fictive as a mode of art production can achieve. I am working on creating a fictive university – University of Djudjustan – working on creating a preliminary course. 

What would a preliminary course look like today, for us not to only survive but also thrive? 

What kind of pedagogical methods are most beneficial in this moment in time and going forward?

Can education forge new alliances and initiatives that are mutually supportive, outside contemporary tribal /racial formations and hierarchies in the art world and educational system?

Can we learn together, gently? 

These are some of the questions I am asking.

Photo credit of profile image above: Francesco Scotti