Academic journal article Afterimage

Identity through Architecture

Academic journal article Afterimage

Identity through Architecture

Article excerpt

While some welcome rapid "modernization" within the Persian Gulf region, others are apprehensive--concerned that it will wipe away the very essence of what has made this area unique. "My Father's House: The Architecture of Cultural Heritage" attempts to grapple with this culturally significant time within the broader Middle East, which has raised debate regarding notions of identity, tradition, and authenticity. Conservative in approach, this exhibition offers an interesting look at how architecture reflects and envelops the notion of identity within both physical and social realms. From Tim Hetherington's images of the banal to Boushra Almutawakel's series of home interiors entitled "Strata" (2007), this exhibition, sponsored by the British Council, features eight lens-based artists (five from the Middle East and three from the United Kingdom) who impart different approaches to understanding the complex nature of the Middle East through their interactions with the region's architecture and the people who inhabit it.

At the entrance to the exhibition, photographer Tim Loveless set the stage for the show with his series of architectural photographs "Reconstructed Histories" (2007-08), which document historically significant buildings as well as the "modernization" of older, dilapidated structures outfitted with electricity and air conditioners. Nestled among these photographs is an image that is key to understanding the thesis of the show--a photo of a bird's-eye view atop Abu Dhabi's elder fortress, Qasr Al Hosn. Overlooking a skyscraper-filled landscape, it embodies the complex tension between tradition and modernization.

Lamya Gargash's subtle yet visually rich series of photographs, "Presence" (2007), depicts vacant rooms that exude a sense of loneliness, isolation, and transience. The carefully composed images portray interiors that range from the deteriorated and dilapidated to the opulent and all have one thing in common: the inhabitants of these dwellings are all in a state of transition--they have either moved out or are in the process of leaving these dwellings for newer and more contemporary conveniences. This sparks an intriguing metaphor about the rapidly shifting population and socio-economic makeup of the Emirates, as some search for a seemingly "better" and more "modern" way of life.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Hazel Thompson's five-channel video installation, "Measure of a Woman" (2007), examines the daily lives of Muslim women from different generations living in Qatar and Bahrain. Combining text, sound, and still imagery within a time-based environment, this Arabic and English bilingual piece presents an intriguing intergenerational portrait of women living in these respective countries. …

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