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Sweating Assets- National Pavilion of the Kingdom of Bahrain, La Biennale Di Venezia 2023

Curation, design and research alongside Maryam AlJomairi.

Sweating Assets entails the use of existing systems to their best capacities rather than starting anew. Our built environments, infrastructure, and relationships are a complex, resource-rich landscape with often overlooked offerings. In particular, the exhibition sheds light on water condensation from the interaction of cooling systems with Bahrain’s hot and humid climate. By no means encouraging wasteful usage of air conditioners, the research uncovers the possibilities (rather than solutions) made through their inevitable consumption. In Bahrain’s intense conditions air conditioning produces proportionally high condensate. Utilizing this unintended by-product of anthropogenic activity, ties loose ends, redirecting water to parts of a larger ecology.

The exhibition’s microenvironment is a choreography of temperature, humidity, and condensation. It conveys the omnipresent conditions and experiences of life on the island. Supplementing the import of the climate is a call for the collection and rerouting of the incidental condensate reserves towards wetlands and agricultural regions in need of replenishment. A landscape sits adjacent to a cold condensing volume, demonstrating the dichotomy of industrial systems against transient ecological grounds.

This glass volume is an emblem of the constantly cooled and condensing living enclosures. It is "activated", when the climatic conditions in Venice begin to mimic Bahrain’s hot summers. At the dew point temperature, water droplets form across the glass surface. Coating patterns and channels control the flow of water, guiding it to deposits on an earthen landscape. Each deposit represents Bahrain’s governorates, scaled based on quantitative analysis of the cooling they consume and the condensate they produce.

Complimenting the installation is “Petrichor”, a film by Saleh Jamsheer, produced with the curators, alongside music by Vijay Rajkumar. The compilation sets a tone of negotiation, rather than celebration or rejection of conditioning systems. Recognizing their detrimental nature and accumulation with an ominous tone, whilst presenting a more considerate and sensitive way of using cooling as well as its hydrous by-product.

Cooling technologies were introduced by the British, through oil camps in the 1940s, they spread across the country soon after. Generational resilience to heat was rendered obsolete, as living conditions were suddenly greatly alleviated. At a higher level, the research reflects on the introduction of this imperial technology and its cultural impact. Whilst passive means of attaining comfort hold great importance, their employment is limited to more moderate ‘shoulder seasons’ and will require time to be eased into culturally. Thus, the research leans into the periods when the consumption of conditioning is a vital survival mechanism. It is an account of the returns and liabilities of their use to elucidate the reduction of wasteful practices.

The publication “Sweating Assets: On Climate Conditioning and Ecology” supports the exhibition with numerical analysis and qualitative speculations and writings. A nationwide audit studies cooling infrastructure, its environmental implications, and offerings in the form of water.

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