The Bright Side of the Desert Moon - Noor Riyadh 2023

Jérôme Sans - The Bright Side of the Desert Moon - Noor Riyadh 2023

As one of the most ambitious festivals of its kind, Noor Riyadh is a citywide celebration of light and art, transforming the urban landscape into an open-air museum. Rooted in the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of Saudi Arabia, the 2023 edition, with Jérôme Sans as its lead curator, alongside Pedro Alonzo, Alaa Tarabzouni and Fahad Bin Naif, will open on November 30th and run until December 16th 2023. An urban project in one of the fastest developing cities on earth, the festival showcases a world in full mutation, like a whirlwind in the desert. In the midst of these accelerated transformations, the festival aims to write a story spread out in several locations, like a symphony in different acts within the city which unfolds at night. 

Set in Riyadh, a burgeoning metropolis planted in the middle of vast arid land, the exhibition considers the desert as a place of reconnection where our differences dissipate. Desert light blinds as much as it guides us, deceives as much as it leaves us awestruck. Descending rays refract and seem to bend back towards us: light, they reveal, is not stagnant but moves around the atmosphere, as if sowing seeds or watering the dry, uniform grounds. 

Particularly prone to the mirage phenomenon, emblematic of what can be seen but never reached, Riyadh is transformed into an intangible garden where light is understood as the universal force building our contemporary world and interpersonal relationships. Apprehended as both vitally natural and increasingly artificial, from the first flames that allowed humanity to settle and develop, to the brightness of technological screens today, light has guided the history of humanity. If the grand cable were to be unplugged, depriving humanity of this binding radiant energy, the course of our lives and the world as we know it would immediately come to a halt, inconceivably disturbed. Situated at the very core of the structure of society, light is the umbilical cord of our world, be it economic, political, sociological, or cultural.

A potent metaphor of our contemporary world, the desert is here the figure of today’s Meta cities in which one is easily overwhelmed by information. In this extremely interconnected world, individuals have paradoxically never been so disconnected. Anonymity amidst the crowd is paradoxically paired with accessible celebrity, even if fleetingly – a Warholian 15 minutes of fame made possible by social media. The exhibition twists the vision of the desert as a decontextualizing force which pushes to rethink our relationships, and to reconsider anonymity as a way to reconnect. 

Embracing technological progress as well as paying attention to the history of humanity’s perception of light, The Bright Side of the Desert Moon thus aims to channel the diversity that composes our world within a shared experience through the artworks. It goes against our individualist tendencies and celebrates the common light that warms, comforts and connects us all.