Maraya: Glen Lowry, M. Simon Levin, Henry Tsang
Maraya is a collaborative visual art project that has developed over a five-year period of tracking/researching the relationship between urban spaces in Vancouver and Dubai. The project—comprised of gallery-based installations, public programming, walks and talks, publications, and custom-built online platform / interactive website—takes its cue from the mirroring of urban waterfront developments in both cities. In particular, Maraya proposes a counterpoint to the global mobility of a small cadre of architects, developers, and planners who have helped shape contemporary thinking about post-industrial city building.
Focusing on the Dubai-Vancouver nexus as a specific example of a new unfolding, multi-sited 21st century urbanism, Maraya follows the lead of a group of Canadian experts who entered the world stage with the 1990s mega-development / urban regeneration of Vancouver's Expo86 grounds (Olds 2001; Mitchell 2004), and who moved to the UAE in the late 1990s / early 2000s and became instrumental in the realization of a contemporary Dubai phenomena (Boddy 2004; Boddy 2006). Tracking the relationship between these two cities, Maraya has set about providing contexts for important discussions about the nature and role of contemporary art in relation to our understanding of public engagement, particularly as it is brought to bear on the formation of new urban paradigms. Looking at how the urban planning from one place (Vancouver) is picked up and transported to another (Dubai)—how in the process, it is translated, amplified, modified—Maraya's multifaceted creations invite participants to consider the consequences of this type of global exchange—the linking and delinking of urban development.
The Maraya project takes its name from the Arabic for mirror or reflection, and it was designed as a vehicle for a multi-sited dialogue on the transformation of urban space in the 21st century. To this end, the Maraya team draws on research from artists, academics, and designers across a range of disciplines and institutional affiliations from Dubai and Vancouver. As creative-practice research, the project provides surprising reflections on an emergent cultural landscape, which is infused by the particularities of local sites and the diffuse forces of global mobilities. Documenting and contextualizing the development of one of Dubai's early megaprojects, Dubai Marina, from 2007-2012, Maraya wonders about the meaning and viability of an increasingly popular form of urban development. Taking investment in high-density, residential urban waterfront real estate that was designed and marketed to wealthy off-shore investors interested in purchasing leisure properties as an indicator of a new and precarious form of urbanization, Maraya attempts to provide an innovative means of mapping an unfolding cultural space or set of social spaces.