8 November 2022
Fahd Burki and Ala Ebtekar Take to the Skies
Alserkal Avenue’s newest public art commissions give us something to contemplate about the truth of our perceptions of time and the offline. How are we affected by the blurring of personal memory with a shared digital consciousness that’s heavily influenced by images we are exposed to everyday?
Entitled, The Follower, the installations prompt us into considering two worlds: the ‘follower’ online and the earthbound ‘follower’ of the stars and the skies.
At the 6A Street entrance to the Avenue, two of Fahd Burki’s works (in collaboration with art gallery, Grey Noise) Meadow and Sunset, stand back-to-back over the entranceway. The works serve as windows into all too recognisable digital realms with gradients mimicking onscreen wallpapers. Picture a meadow on a screen and you will instantly recall the Microsoft desktop background image entitled Bliss ー a name that, just like Burki’s work, hints at escape. Evoking a hazy gradient of the half-light at dusk, Burki’s Sunset also makes us think about the sunsets we see, know and imagine. By weaving in elements from the surrounding topography, the visuals are immersive but not obtrusive. Instead, the digital renderings invite viewers to shift seamlessly between landscapes making us question which world we are truly immersed in, rendering them as estranged, deja-vu moments.
Approaching the Avenue from First Al Khail street, the swirling blue skyscape in Ala Ebtekar’s Zenith facing oncoming traffic, serves as a portal into the years of our seafaring ancestors and the skies that once guided them. Lingering over the Avenue’s warehouses as we approach winter, the mural speaks to clouds and stars reflecting off the mirror aggregates found embedded in the textured walls of the central Concrete showspace. By surrendering to the gradations of the changing skies and stars above this industrial district, the vast cosmic realm in Zenith blurs the lines between the real and the imagined, reassuring us that as time moves on, the spatial continuum of the constellations above us, transcends time and is never changing.
Fahd Burki and Ala Ebtekar’s works encourage us to think about not just the signs we follow but also the signs we make. As we traverse everyday spaces and are confronted with a series of ritualistic visual checkpoints, we begin to excavate markers that we feel particularly drawn to, creating our very own constellations. We undertake this exercise in mapping and meaning every time we look at a screen or step outside ー whether a wallpaper, or a preferred parking spot, the sky when one clocks out of work, a store-front now renovated, or a construction site on pause. Selectively visible signs and sites coalesce into intricate personal algorithms, becoming milestones of an emotive GPS system. Not only do the works bring to light visible, aestheticised signs, but the swirling clouds, the shadows of the fence on the vast green gradient, and the sunset in motion become ways of experiencing time and space on our own terms.
The Follower | Curated by Nada Raza, and commissioned in collaboration with Alserkal Avenue galleries, Grey Noise and The Third Line, with special thanks to Kevin Jones.
Shama Nair's composite images in this story are a visual response to the public installations by Fahd Burki and Ala Ebtekar at Alserkal Avenue. They do not represent the public works by the artists, exclusively.