Unusual Rigging helps add a touch of Scenic Genius to UAE Shopping Malls

4th December 2023

When artist and designer Jon Asanga, and artwork production company Scenic Genius are both commissioned to design and install suspended artworks in the UAE, Unusual Rigging & Engineering LLC is one of their first ports of call.  “I need to be able to sleep at night, and when you’re designing artworks that can sometimes weigh several tonnes over the heads of members of the public, you need to make sure you have a very capable support team working on the job,” he says.
Jon has worked with URE to install jaw-dropping art installations – inspired by nature - at shopping malls in the region. Hibiscus and Bee was produced for the Dubai Hills Mall in 2021 - a hanging installation of a stylised hibiscus flower created from 1000’s of custom-made spheres, pollen and a bronze finished bee seemingly flying beneath it. Butterfly Dress, meanwhile, was a combination of fashion and nature, which saw Jon create a giant dress consisting of a bodice with flowing skirt made from thousands of translucent butterflies. This too was hung at the Dubai Hills Mall.
Another collaboration with the URE, team was at a Mall in Abu Dhabi, where an art installation comprising large leaves sculpted out of brass needed to be suspended in a challenging variety of positions and angles, under a curved glass atrium/roof.  “It needed to have a sensitive rigging design that enabled adjustment during installation, minimal movement in an air- conditioned environment, and the best balance between safety and rigging visibility. For jobs like this the URE team are the  riggers of choice. Capability, understanding and communication are always excellent and this creates a friendly and professional working environment where rigging designs and solutions can easily be verified, agreed on and executed well.”
The artworks designed, produced and installed are all different and unique. There is no one rigging solution. Each venue is different and so comes with its own challenges. “Working in the UAE and MENA region often brings challenges in getting an artwork to site and installed. Whether these are administrative, logistical, physical or client related they often need a certain mindset in order to be able to successfully navigate through them. At Unusual Rigging whether you are speaking with the ladies in the  control office, the design team, Richard Hoare, Denis Bramhall or any of the team on site, the overriding default approach is one of positivity, support and helpfulness.  I am incredibly grateful for this, as for me it’s a must have rather than a would like. ”
As well as ensuring the safety of the installation, the artworks are ultimately what need to be seen, so wherever possible, the rigging designs need to consider this. Jon explained: “Safety is always the priority, so if a wire needs to be a certain thickness, then that is non-negotiable. There are always ways we can make the rigging less visible and that is what goes into the detail of the design. Because URE really understand this, it’s easy to work together on solutions which showcase the artwork as best as possible, while the rigging becomes the dependable, strong, unsung hero in the background, that ultimately makes it possible for the artwork to be there.”
Jon also points out that the adherence of URE to the highest European and international standards puts them head and shoulders above other companies in the region. “I can trust that they always use the best equipment and hardware, rather than trying to cut corners on costs. From experience, a lot of companies will say ‘yes’ to a job and then try to undercut each other by buying the cheapest rigging equipment and hardware– I just cannot and would not take that risk where rigging is concerned”.
Trust is ultimately the biggest draw, concludes Jon. “With URE I trust their communication, safety, and creativity a hundred percent%. They are creative in their methods – rather than just looking at a textbook and using ‘Method A’, if the standard model doesn’t work, the team knows enough about their tools, equipment, and industry to think outside the box. If there’s a way, they will get it up and it will stay up, giving ultimately what I need…peace of mind.”

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