VOLTA9, Basel's art fair for new and emerging art (Jun 10 - Jun 15, 2013) ‘Barzakh’ by Sami Al Turki
Jun 10, 2013 Photography
Sami Al Turk / Barzakh 06, from Barzakh Series, 2013, 120x180 cm. Framed photographic enlargement on archival paper. Ed 1/5 / Courtesy of Athr Gallery
During the main move from nomadic living to urbanisation during the 70's, an entire generation of people built their homes on empty land. This tradition of building your dream home continues to this day and the cities are littered with house upon house of every different style of architecture imaginable, there are houses that look like the White House, others that look like a palace from the Arabian Nights, and even one that looks like a space ship, all testament to a land where your home constitutes your ultimate goal, and the realisation of your fantasy. With very little public life or outdoor activity, the majority of your life will be spent within those walls. Your home is your castle, of which you are king, and the ultimate shelter and protection that you can provide your family.
Hoping to follow in his father's footsteps, the artist returned hoping to purchase a plot of land in order to build just such a dream house, but found that many things had changed since his father's time. While land remains a plentiful commodity, it has become an almost entirely inaccessible one. Anywhere else in the world, land is acquired for the purposes of development. However, in Saudi Arabia, land is being traded as a commodity in itself; people only buy land in order to sell it again for a significant profit. The result is sky-rocketing prices and a substantial amount of prime empty and unused land that only the very rich can afford, as well as a rising housing crisis.
Sami Al Turk / Barzakh 11, from Barzakh Series, 2013, 120 x 180 cm. Framed photographic enlargement on archival paper. Ed 1/5 / Courtesy of Athr Gallery
In 'Barzakh', an Arabic word that alludes to a state of in-between, a neither here not there, or even purgatory, the artist depicts unfinished architectural structures that are suspended amidst the clouds or surrounded by an alien land; an homage to a dream that is drifting farther and farther, not just out of his reach, but out of the reach of an entire generation and class of people. While appearing as a fanciful gesture, the work can also be seen as a stark depiction of mankind's capacity for greed, as the artist suggests that if it were possible to own the sky, and to build walls declaring that ownership, mankind would.
Furthermore, by removing these structures from their usual context and placing them in the heavens, the artist is using the unlikelihood of the image to remind us that despite all our earthly wealth and possessions, these things will not accompany us into the hereafter, thus putting into perspective the absurdity of fighting over grains of sand in a land of abundance and where land is abundant.
Sami Al Turk, Nets, from Barzakh Series, 2013, 118 x 180 cm. Framed photographic enlargement on archival paper. Ed 3/3 / Courtesy of Athr Gallery
Sami Al Turki was born in 1984, to a Saudi father and an Irish mother. He was raised in the port city of Jeddah and lived in Dubai, UAE for several years studying photography at the American University of Dubai. His upbringing ensured a broad vision between the two different cultures and traditions, bridging the gap between east and west. His impressions of his home country, Saudi Arabia, and the city where he resided in, Dubai, are the driving force behind his concepts and visions. Turki’s eclectic and varied style is a reflection of both his diverse cultural upbringing and the confusing western-vs-eastern environment of Dubai.
Sami has participated in many international shows including ADACH’s participation at the 53rd Venice Biennale 2009 curated by Catherine David, Edge of Arabia’s ‘Grey Borders/Grey Frontiers’ (Berlin 2010) and ‘We Need To Talk’ (Jeddah 2012) among others, and most recently in the touring exhibition “25 Years of Arab Creativity” of L’Institut Du Monde Arabe in Paris, where he underwent an artist residency at La Cite Des Arts. Sami has also been selected to attend the 2013 Art Omi International Artist Residency in New York.