Air conditioning has transformed how people live, work, and build their homes and offices. The transformation was the focus of an exhibition, titled ’50 Years of Cool’, hosted by Taqeef and O General, from March 1 to 9, 2023.
The exhibition featured the works of four artists based in the United Arab Emirates, who offered unique perspectives on the impact of air conditioning on the country’s development and quality of life. Through photography, moving images and annotated portraits, the exhibition invited viewers to reflect on the evolution of air conditioning and its intricate relationship with the Gulf’s migrant histories and economic development. In 1973, Taqeef collaborated with Fujitsu General to bring air conditioning to the country. The photographs, experimental films and annotated portraits featured in the exhibition commemorated 50 years of Taqeef’s role in the past and present of the UAE.
Featured works included Hussain Al Moosawi’s grid of photographs that captured the diverse typology of air conditioning systems in the UAE, highlighting their ubiquitous presence in the UAE’s urban architecture and, by extension, its everyday lives. A short experiential film by Fatema Al Fardan collaged a personal oral history and visuals to weave together a poetic interpretation of the before-and-after effects of modern air conditioning, platforming a first-hand account of how it has revolutionised the ways people live and work.
A photographic series by Ahmed Al Kuwaiti played witness to the intricate relationship between the buildings, people and air conditioning systems that have made the urban environments of the Emirates habitable in the intense heat of the summers. Poignant portraits of O General employees, technicians and long-time customers, presented by Augustine Paredes, offered a glimpse into the on-ground human impact of the local air conditioning systems industry, accounting for the human faces and pioneering stories behind cooling technologies.