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Deniz Üster: Artist-In-Residence at Art Dubai

March 12, 2012

We're excited to announce a series of exclusive guests posts from the Art Dubai Artists-In-Residence (A.I.R)

  • Text by Simone Sebastian

Art Week is almost upon us, with the Sikka Art Fair, Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai opening in a matter of days. We prepare for March madness with the first in a series of guest posts from the Art Dubai Artists-In-Residence (A.I.R). For the next two weeks artists Deniz Üster, Fayçal BaghricheMagdi Mostafa will be sharing exclusive posts for Satellite Voices, inspired by their three month residency in Dubai. The final post in this series will come from Art Dubai's Curator-In-Residence, Alexandra MacGilp. 

First up is Turkish artist Deniz Üster who has spent most of the last three months working on a series of sculptures that will be shown at Art Dubai and Sikka Art Fair. Deniz shares a short video and text that attempt to place the city of Dubai within the context of a large-scale art project. 

Guest Feature by Deniz Üster 


The Emirate of Dubai, is the biggest site-specific art project in terms of scale, budget and the amount of performers, the inhabitants it involves. I would first like to classify “The Dubai Project” under appropriation art, which thoroughly adopts or borrows certain aspects or the entire form of man-made visual culture. According to Pichler, the tactics of an appropriation work include re-evaluation, variation, interpretation, imitation, increment, improvisation, pastiche, paraphrase, mimicry and intertextuality; all of which Dubai adopted as its main methodology whilst constructing its new economy, based on service sector and real estate, rather than untrustworthy oil.

The postmodern term ‘appropriation’ refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of new work, in this case a new city, or in a more comprehensive way; a new nation. Recontextualising what it borrows to build its nation, the city also appeals to monumental propaganda in a very unusual, contemporary and subtle manner. The iconic skyscrapers of Dubai - mainly uninhabited, and some of them ‘appropriated and then doubled’ - function analogously to the big public monuments of the cold war period. Emphasising the strength of the Union, the city defies the two economic crises the world has faced, with possessing all the ‘mosts’ in the dictionary.

On the other hand, I would like to scrutinise Dubai in the land art context, which was pioneered by Robert Smithson. It is an art form created in nature, using natural materials together with concrete, metal and asphalt. These sculptures are not placed in the landscape; rather the landscape itself is the material of the creation. So the artificial islands of Dubai, the palms, the world and the planets are not only the ultimate land art projects, but also they push the context much further with the idea of settlement on their man-made lands. However, ephemerality is inevitable in land art, it is inversely intended. Dubai might not like this, but the sea and the desert started to claim back their own shares. The World Islands are in danger of disappearing into the sea, and two sand storms in the last two weeks already started to challenge millions of employed cleaners to hide downtown from the desert, or vice versa.

Even though people can be judgmental towards the urban landscape of Dubai, I personally find it incredibly inspiring and unique in terms of its contradictions and the co-existence of these opposites. Even if the sand wants its land back, it is indispensable for a city to experience a decline, which will enhance its history. (Such as Istanbul, with its population explosion in the 1960s, and Glasgow after the Second World War) Because big falls, crashes and even disasters always provide a better political awareness, and also in my context, maturation in contemporary art.

All images courtesy of Deniz Üster

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