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New exhibitions link Leicester to Dubai via DMU

Leicester and Dubai are officially 5,564 miles apart – but two new art installations bring them together for the next six months as part of the Art AI Festival.

Blending images of the two cities, the installations are the work of two De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) artists and will be part of a joint exhibition displayed across Leicester venues and the Expo 2020 festival in Dubai.

Having opened at the start of the month with a spectacular ceremony, Expo 2020 is a six-month event in which countries from around the world will show off their best innovations in technology, culture, healthcare and sustainability.

DMU is one of the founding partners of the UK Pavilion, being run by the Government’s Department of International Trade, and so has a permanent exhibition, along with putting on a varied programme of events throughout the festival.  

ART AI (3)
Cities Tango

Cities Tango: Leicester+Dubai by Emeritus Prof Ernest Edmonds will see images of each city displayed at locations at Leicester’s LCB Depot, on the VJ Patel LED on the DMU campus and at Expo 2020.

While ArchXtonic, by DMU computer artist Dr Fabrizio Poltronieri, blends images of Dubai and Leicester together to create an imaginary cityscape and is on display at Haymarket Shopping Centre, the Green Dragon Square and the UK pavilion.

ART AI (2)

The artworks are powered by artificial intelligence which creates new images in real-time. Cities Tango is interactive and its colours are based on motion, such as people walking in front of the installation.

Professor Edmonds said: “Cities Tango: Leicester+Dubai is the latest in a series of works that began with Communications Game, shown in the Invention of Problems 2 exhibition at Leicester Polytechnic in 1971. 

"In fact, this artwork began when I asked, with Stroud Cornock, whether an artist would be amplified or superseded by computers – and it’s been something I and other creative computing practitioners at DMU have explored ever since. For example, Fabrizio Poltronieri’s ArchXtonic is one of the latest outcomes from this work.”

Dr Poltronieri said: “ArchXtonic is the latest artwork which explores how artificial intelligence can generate new narratives based on urban landscapes.  This artwork is part of the research I have developed at DMU's Institute of Creative Technologies in the Creative AI research group.”

Both artworks at the Dubai Expo 2020 are part of the Art AI Festival, which brings together artists from all over the world who are working at the cutting edge of AI in art today.


Art AI Festival has been running since May at venues across Leicester, encouraging people to engage with AI through art, including ‘talking’ statues, a robot that can engage with visitors by recognising their facial expressions and a downloadable playbook about AI aimed at young people and families.

Professor Tracy Harwood, who is the director of the Art AI Festival, said: “The artworks we are showing at the Expo and simultaneously at venues in Leicester demonstrate some of the most interesting ways that AI is being used today to create connections between people, spaces and places.

"This is particularly important at this moment in time when travel is still such a challenge. Cities Tango shows how people in one place can creatively influence others in a separate place through interactivity and ArchXtonic has a fascinating blended architectural aesthetic illustrating as a dreamscape of the two cities which represents our support for the Expo in Dubai.”


DMU is supporting the co-location of Cities Tango: Leicester+Dubai and ArchXtonic at the Dubai Expo 2020, both original artworks created for the Art AI Festival that will be co-located there.

Some of the photographs included in the artwork are by Tim Dunlop. Technical support was provided by Dr Sean Clark (Interact Digital Arts, Leicester) and Dr Mohammed Lataifeh of University of Sharjah, both of whom gained their PhDs at DMU’s Institute of Creative Technologies.

In Leicester, LCB Depot general manager James Burkmar, where Cities Tango can be viewed until 31 March 2022, said: “Having Cities Tango at the Depot provides an opportunity for local creatives to see and engage with ground-breaking creative AI work and to feel connected to the Expo - an exhibition showcasing the world's latest innovations.”

Tony Spencer, centre manager of Haymarket Shopping Centre, where ArchXtonic can be viewed during centre opening hours, said: "This is a treat for our regular shoppers and also attracts visitors from further afield who enjoy seeing innovative artworks - it is especially interesting that this work connects us directly to Expo 2020 Dubai where the world's latest innovations are on show.”

ArchXtonic can also be viewed in Green Dragon Square in the evenings. 

Mike Dalzell, Director of Tourism Culture & Investment at Leicester City Council, said: “Having a direct connection between Leicester and one of the most significant global business events in the world is a fantastic opportunity to put us on the map and keep us there for many months.”

Find out more about the Art AI Festival.

Posted on Thursday 7th October 2021

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