The Third Line presetns Hassan Hajjaj’s third solo show in Dubai, “La Salle de Gym des Femmes Arabes”.
For the exhibition, Hassan is delving into the traditional gym culture across the Arab world, transforming the gallery space into a makeshift recreational centre for women. Whereas Hassan has had easy access to fitness clubs for men in Morocco, he has never been inside a women-only sports facility or gym and he uses this as a trajectory to conceptualise such a space, keeping true to the aesthetics of his previous installations – all embodying the vibrant colour, texture and spirit of the Moroccan street vibe.
The women photographed for this series are personal acquaintances of Hassan’s and they have been masked and dressed to represent fictional characters. They are presented in various uniforms and athletic gear, with popular brand names pieced together with traditional textiles and shapes – all designed and put together by the artist himself – and photographed on sets, posing with boxing gloves, gym shoes and socks, surfing boards and footballs. In some cases the women are seen wearing name jerseys with text in both English and Arabic.
The photographs included in this exhibition have been taken over many years and at different locations, only now coming together for this exhibition. Playing with gender norms associated with the gym space, Hassan inverts expectations with this body of photographic work featuring female figures of strength in the places where hyper-masculine imagery is normally featured, or imagined.