RCA Print Student Ahaad Alamoudi Visits Southwest USA with Crossway Foundation
In October 2016, Royal College of Art Print student Ahaad Alamoudi travelled to Texas and Southwest USA with nine other young artists from Middle Eastern countries including Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The trip was run by Crossway Foundation, an organisation that delivers arts and education initiatives for young people in both the Middle East and the UK.
Since 2007 the Foundation has facilitated ambitious international travel for young artists, as a way to inspire better understanding and collaboration across borders. ‘Artists thrive when introduced to new places and experiences’, explains Crossway Foundation’s Managing Director Imogen Ware. ‘There's nothing quite like the power of crossing borders – real and imagined – to help identify the commonalities and differences across cultures and stimulate their thinking and creativity.’
Ahaad Alamoudi studied Graphic Design at a University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia before coming to the RCA in 2015. She and the other nine participants on the trip were selected from over 100 Crossway Foundation alumni. During their trip, they visited the Donald Judd Foundation in Marfa, Texas, Elmsgreen and Dragsnet’s Prada Marfa and spent the night in Walter de Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977). They also spent time on a working ranch in Magdalena, New Mexico, and visited the remarkable White Sands National Monument in the Tularosa Basin.
Head of Print at RCA Jo Stockham comments that ‘the chance for students to travel to extraordinary sites such as Marfa, Texas, is an invaluable part of their education. To see such different landscapes and communities, and see the ways that artists have created work and engaged with local influences leads toward greater understanding and communication.’
For Ahaad, the trip was challenging as well as inspiring, not least because it took place just weeks before the US presidential election. ‘It was a tense time to be there’, she admits. ‘We found that our preconceptions of both Republicans and Democrats were constantly being complicated and unsettled and became much more nuanced as a result.’ When they were in El Paso, the group took part in a workshop with students who cross the border from Mexico to the US every day in order to attend University. The group found the students' descriptions of these routine but dangerous crossings deeply shocking.
During her time in the USA, Ahaad distributed a series small handmade sculptures of palm trees, leaving one in every place that they visited. ‘By leaving behind these models of date palms’, Ahaad explains, ‘I was attempting to form a bridge between Saudi Arabia and the USA. Throughout history, date palm trees have offered sustenance wherever they are found. These trees that I left behind are a symbol of the culture of my country and a personal gift from me.’
Since returning to the UK for her second year at the RCA, Ahaad has taken the project that she began in Texas in new directions; she recently made a 3D scan of one of the palm tree models. ‘It is not an exact replica of the ones I left in the US’, Ahaad explains, 'but rather a kind of memory of it.' This sense of interdisciplinary exploration has been a feature of Ahaad's time at the RCA so far: ‘Everything is so close here. As a result, I have found myself creating installations in the Sculpture programme, as well as experimenting with digital formats, and going across to Kensington to use the 3D printing facilities.’
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