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Diriyah Art Futures opens applications for emerging new media artists

The exciting educational programme will be hosted in the soon-to-open Diriyah Art Futures centre, the region’s first facility dedicated to New Media Arts

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati


The Saudi Ministry of Culture has announced a call for applications for its ‘Emerging New Media Artist’ Programme, set to take place at the soon-to-open Diriyah Art Futures (DAF) centre. The programme, which is targeted at emerging creatives from within the region and beyond, provides emerging artists with access to cutting-edge professional equipment, a production budget, and a wide range of multidisciplinary learning opportunities, including personal mentorship from prominent international digital artists.

The programme is part of a wider partnership between the Ministry and Diriyah Company which will be launching Diriyah Art Futures as the region’s first centre dedicated to New Media Arts.

DAF aims to facilitate creativity across various visual art disciplines through education, empowerment, and the creation of an environment that fosters artistic imagination. Located in Historical Diriyah, the centre will nurture the thriving artistic scene in Saudi Arabia and reaffirm the site’s position as a global cultural destination.

Designed in collaboration with Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France, DAF’s Emerging New Media Artists Programme is a one-year long programme supporting creative production training.

The call for applications for DAF’s Emerging New Media Artists Educational Programme is now open. Applicants should be 35 years or younger, at graduate or postgraduate completion stage and have experience in developing and creating digital and new media arts. Interested candidates may find information, selection criteria and apply to the programme here.

Latitudes spoke to Ibrahim Alsanousi, the acting CEO of Museums Commission, to learn more about their project.

Latitudes Online (LO):  Can you give us more information about the art scene in Saudi Arabia & the MENA region?

Ibrahim Alsanousi (IA): The Middle East and North Africa have very rich traditions of cultural expression, and this is evident in the various modern and contemporary art movements we see across the region. Because this region is so diverse, it allows for a multiplicity of stunning perspectives, inspirations and creative movements. A region with a very young population, it is naturally overflowing with many creative voices, searching for new platforms to express themselves. 

In recent years, the Arabian Peninsula has emerged as a new global capital of arts and culture. While there are many incredible projects throughout the region, this growth has been accelerated by Saudi Arabia, which is developing a vast array of groundbreaking new events and institutions at an unprecedented rate. 

This is a country where most people are below the age of 30. They represent a new generation of ambitious young minds, who are excited about emerging technology, and keen to explore new avenues to express their unique perspectives on a regional and global stage. 

This thriving new ecosystem acts as a magnet for creative talent from across the MENA region, and a melting pot for experiences, perspectives and ideas. 

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati

LO: How would you say DAF is advancing the field of new media and digital arts?

IA: As the MENA region’s first dedicated New Media and Digital Arts centre, DAF is a unique amalgamation of school, laboratory and exhibition space. Our centre not only offers world-class instruction under the guidance of leading New Media and Digital Artists, but also access to cutting-edge facilities and an exhibition space. 

This gives our students an opportunity to explore the latest mediums and issues in the field, experiment and produce groundbreaking work, and showcase it alongside digital art pioneers. 

Although we have a global focus, by inviting artists from across the world, we maintain a regional perspective. Saudi Arabia offers a fascinating new creative context, and we aim to reflect this across our programming as we explore new future possibilities, free from the constraints of older paradigms that have dominated art world narratives and creative production.

LO: I see the programme is one year, starting on 24 Sept and ending 25 Aug. Could you provide a breakdown of what the programme will look like?

IA: During the first three months, participants will engage in a series of thematic and conceptual explorations led by prolific new media and digital artists and theorists, spanning seminars, workshops, lectures and screenings.

This is followed by six months of personalised mentorship from prominent artists. During this period, the participants also produce their own artworks using the technologies offered by the Diriyah Art Futures labs. 

The final three months consist of a deep dive into cutting-edge technologies such as advanced audio-visual, immersive reality, coding, sensing, machine learning and spatial audio-visual environments.

LO: Can you touch on the significance of the programme being set at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al-Diriyah?

IA: The intersection between past, present and future is a central theme in DAF’s mission and vision. Situated in the historical UNESCO World Heritage site of Al-Diriyah, DAF embodies this intersection by integrating the rich cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia with cutting-edge developments in art, science and technology. 

Designed by Italian architectural firm Schiattarella Associati, DAF's 6,550m2 centre is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and labs. Set against the historic backdrop, the centre symbolises DAF’s vision of empowering the next generation to shape the future, with a firm foundation in the cultural and historic context of Saudi Arabia and the region. 

By establishing DAF as a hub for New Media and Digital Arts, the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia, in partnership with Diriyah Company, is not only preserving the country’s unique heritage but also paving the way for future artistic endeavours. The centre serves as a bridge between the past, with its historical significance, and the future, with its focus on emerging artistic practices.

The Emerging New Media Artists Programme, developed in collaboration with Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains, exemplifies this intersection by providing emerging artists with access to state-of-the-art equipment and training while nurturing creativity in a historically significant location. This programme not only embraces the innovative spirit of the present but also ensures that the artistic heritage of the region continues to evolve and thrive into the future.

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati

LO: What is the link between new media and sustainability? Could you talk to the importance of digital art having a place in Saudi Arabia?

IA: Saudi Arabia is a country in the process of transformation. We are rapidly developing new frameworks and models to diversify our economy away from oil and integrate groundbreaking new sustainability initiatives. Part of this process includes an unprecedented investment in arts and culture. 

This provides a fascinating new context for creative expression, especially for the forward-thinking approach by digital artists and scholars. Many of these new disruptive technologies represent a break from existing models, and this is something we understand very well in Saudi Arabia. We are uniquely well positioned to explore the creative mediums of the future and develop solutions to some of the issues surrounding them, unfettered by older methods of thinking. 

LO: How would you say a programme like this fosters collaboration in the Global South?

IA: A programme like DAF’s Emerging New Media Artists Programme has the potential to foster collaboration in the Global Majority in several ways, including through facilitating cross-cultural exchange by attracting emerging artists from various countries within the Global Majority which are currently underrepresented in the space. Participants bring diverse perspectives, experiences and artistic traditions, creating opportunities for collaboration and mutual learning. 

The programme also provides a platform for emerging artists from the Global Majority to connect with each other, as well as with established artists and institutions in the region and beyond. These connections can lead to future collaborations, joint projects and artistic initiatives that transcend geographical boundaries.

Furthermore, artists from the Global Majority often face similar challenges related to limited resources, infrastructure and access to opportunities. Participating in a programme like this allows them to share their experiences and brainstorm innovative solutions together, fostering a sense of solidarity and collective empowerment.

Then, by showcasing the work of these emerging artists, the programme amplifies their voices on the international stage. This exposure not only benefits individual artists but also contributes to greater visibility and recognition of the diverse artistic practices and narratives emerging from the region.

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati

LO: So much of what one reads is through a Western lens, how do you think that women artists will navigate the arts scene in Saudi Arabia? 

AI: Saudi Arabia’s creative scene is marked by a wonderfully diverse range of perspectives, and this includes both strong male and female participation. Throughout our major events, exhibitions and institutions, we are proud to feature prominent representation from women from all backgrounds. 

Moving forward, as Saudi Arabia continues to develop its arts and culture sectors, we are happy to see even more young women eager to embrace the new opportunities that have opened up through the ambition of Vision 2030. 

LO: What is the full takeaway from this residency for artists across the globe? And in that same breath, what are you hoping to achieve from this?

IA: DAF’s residency programme offers artists across the globe a unique opportunity for growth, exploration and collaboration in the field of New Media and Digital Art. Participating artists will have access to cutting-edge equipment, mentorship from prominent international digital artists, and a wide range of multidisciplinary learning opportunities. This exposure enhances their technical skills, conceptual understanding, and creative vision, contributing to their professional development.

The programme also provides artists with a supportive environment and resources to explore new ideas, experiment with innovative technologies and push the boundaries of their artistic practice. Participating artists will be able to connect with peers, mentors and industry professionals from diverse backgrounds and cultures. These connections can lead to meaningful collaborations, joint projects and future opportunities for artistic exchange and partnership.

Finally, the residency culminates in curated exhibitions and public presentations, providing artists with a platform to showcase their work to a global audience. This exposure helps artists gain recognition, expand their reach, and establish themselves within the art scene.

DAF aims to nurture the next generation of cutting-edge artists and contribute to the development of the creative ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and beyond. By providing artists with the support, resources and opportunities they need to thrive, DAF seeks to empower emerging talent and foster a vibrant artistic community while positioning the Kingdom as a leading hub for artistic innovation and collaboration on the global stage.

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati

LO: How does this residency programme respond to the shift in the art climate with the rise of AI? Do you consider new media art linked to AI or is it different all together?

IA: Our Emerging New Media Artists Programme aims to immerse artists in the dynamic and ever-evolving world of New Media Arts. New Media Arts includes every form of contemporary art that is produced, altered or transmitted through new forms of media technology. While this can be traced back to the 19th century, today it is most commonly associated with digital and electronic mediums. 

Of course, in this digital age, technology is developing at an exponential rate. As one of the most significant digital technologies today, set to totally transform our relationships with the digital world, AI naturally falls within this realm. In fact, art and image generation is one of the arenas in which this technology has already made its potential so immediately apparent. 

Today, AI tools are already empowering people with no formal art training or creative background to create artworks. On one hand, this is creating space for an influx of impactful new perspectives, but it also raises questions over the value and recognition of those who have devoted their lives to their crafts.  

Of course, as AI continues to grow in power and potential, this impact is only going to grow stronger. Going forwards, we will need to address other questions over where inspiration ends and plagiarism begins, what it means to be an ‘artist’, and how best to navigate the relationship between art and technology. 

Most importantly, throughout our residencies and programming, we're committed to exploring how we can bring together artists and technologists to harness the potential of emergent creative toolkits to empower the next generation of creatives to shape the future in the most harmonious way possible.

Photo credits Hassan Ali Al-Shatti Courtesy Schiattarella Associati

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