After almost a week of grey weather in Dubai, it was a welcome surprise that blue skies greeted the crowds at the two-day Quoz Arts Fest in Alserkal Avenue on Saturday.
The milestone 10th festival, which is being held under the theme Shift Away, is hosting live music, art, performing arts, culinary experiences, public art installations and more until Sunday.
Themes, or “portals”, such as Cyborg, Nature and Childhood, are curated throughout the lanes of the Dubai arts district via home-grown creative brands in fashion and more, alongside a farmers’ market, art exhibitions, public art, talks and workshops.
The assorted line-up of activities reflects the diversity of the crowd. Young parents with toddlers in prams, culture lovers and creatives walk in and out of the galleries such as Mestaria Gallery and the Ishara Art Foundation, which are exhibiting new shows. There are also teenagers skateboarding ahead of their families, young couples and friends walking their dogs, bookworms heading to Zerzura Rare Books in A4 space for a book launch, music lovers gathering at the central stage, and dancers in full costume interacting with the crowd.
Quoz Arts Fest is a true reflection of the growing and dynamic community in Dubai that Alserkal Avenue has been key in fostering.
“The festival grew together with our neighbourhood and we also grew with the cultural ecosystem across the region,” Vilma Jurkute, executive director of Alserkal Avenue, tells The National.
“We have always been a home to visual arts but when we were looking at this year’s programme for our 10-year anniversary you can see the growth, this extension to welcoming this really experimental, incredible music community.”
Quoz Arts Fest provides a platform for up-and-coming creatives across all disciplines to showcase their talents, but it also attracts international artists.
One highlight of the festival this year, which is attracting large crowds, is Concrete’s immersive art experience by Montreal digital art studio Iregular. Titled As Water Falls, two large, ceiling-high screens set within the central courtyard of Alserkal Avenue explore how the varying aspects of water, through its movement within a digital version of a waterfall, reflects our relationship with the element.
The monumental piece reacts to mobile phone flashlights and shows varying movements and shapes cascading down the screen for people to interact with. It is an engaging, multicoloured experience, being enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Across from Concrete, in front of a number of food trucks and performers dressed as silver dancing robots, is the central stage. Performing throughout the weekend are acts such as Dubai’s own The Tasty Biscuit, soul and funk-influenced rapper and singer Bu Kolthoum and viral artist Saint Levant.
Music and live performances have become an integral part of the festival experience every year.
MC Big Hass, a music blogger and radio host, who is performing on both nights of the festival, says Quoz Arts Fest has allowed artists to get their work exposed to new audiences.
“The festival is a place that attracts people we need, especially for new musicians,” he says.
“Whether it’s the local artists performing or regional artists, this place is very important. As an artist, you need an audience in order to prosper.”
Big Hass says the festival has almost become a rite of passage for some artists, who, if they are able to “rock this festival and generate buzz”, then they are on the right track with their work.
“Places like this, where beautiful energies are colliding, where you have diversity of people coming, it’s very important to get to know who’s who and who’s making what,” he adds. “It’s the energy that this festival gives … it’s beautiful.”
Jurkute says it’s been important for them to make sure the festival is not “regionally bound”, but that they “stay connected with talent that has a connection to this region”.
“Dubai, as a city, already has been this extensive platform for the world,” Big Hass adds. “It’s not about where you were born, or whether you are local. It really is this connection to this place, in this part of the world.”