Despite what your eyes tell you, Ergin Cavusoglu's sculptures aren't really there. An interactive art installation by the celebrated Turkish artist is at The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai until December 4, and draws viewers into a 3D wire-frame world that appears and disappears around their feet.
Dust Breeding is a one-piece, non-commercial show that comes at a key time for the Turkish artist. He's just had a wildly successful solo exhibition at Istanbul's RAMPA space that coincided with the city's biennial last month.
Cavusoglu's artistic practice is all about playing with perspective. Walking into The Pavilion's Gallery 1 space, seemingly abstract strips of vinyl creep across the concrete floor and move up the walls. Carefully positioned lighting shimmers from above, creating a depth of glow around the red and yellow lines. But it's only when the piece is viewed from a certain angle that the intention behind this work becomes clear: from the correct perspective, the abstract lines take shape as a wire-frame model of a factory that seems to rise up from the ground.
Cavusoglu has sited a camera at this vantage point, with a monitor just next to it. As viewers walk into the space, they float into view on-screen - ensconced in a three-dimensional sculpture complete with walls, chimneys and windows.
He's staged a number of these anamorphic installations in the past, and is also comfortable using film, creating multiple-screen pieces that meld scenes together into a stack of layered narrative. But the interactive element that is key to Dust Breeding really gives it life. Opening night, last Sunday, saw crowds floating merrily en masse through the artist's 3D construction on-screen.
The National spoke to Cavusoglu just before his show opened, after he'd spent a couple of days exploring Dubai: "When you fly in, you see the patterns of the desert, and then these oases of buildings in between. But on the ground, driving on roads that move between this architecture, I really started to think about the work again. You experience the piece by moving through it and this city is very much like that. I know architects think that the way we move through a building is formulaic but I don't know whether the city's planners designed Dubai in that way."
The show has been brought to The Pavilion by Sara Raza, a London-based curator, who also worked with Cavusoglu on his recent RAMPA show. She explains that the Turkish artist develops on ideas championed by Marcel Duchamp early in the 20th century. Duchamp pioneered the idea of the readymade, and the very act of moving an object into a gallery imbuing it with a contemplative value, regardless of its material value in society. Duchamp did it with a urinal, but here, Cavusoglu offers an "abstraction of the readymade", Raza says. "This is a 'post-object' artwork," in that it he has transported an architectural drawing of a cement factory in Turkey into an art gallery.
The factory that the work is based on sits just outside of Istanbul, on a lonely industrial highway stretching to Ankara. It is a cement factory, dubbed "Noah" by its owner, and was also used as the set for Cavusoglu's two-channel film Silent Glide, directed in 2008/2009. It is the largest cement factory in Europe. "The sheer scale of the building is overwhelming," says the artist.
Cement is, of course, a symbol very pertinent to rapid urban growth, particularly in the Gulf. "But cement is also very ephemeral," Cavusoglu notes. "It begins as a powder, with a density like sand, but through solidification becomes something real and solid." He makes a connection between this process and the idea of moving through one of his anti-sculptures to bring it to life.
The temperament of Dubai has only confirmed Cavusoglu's belief in wanting to site this piece here.
"I didn't realise how diverse the city is. I wouldn't just call it international because it's a new breed of nomads."
Cavusoglu was born in Bulgaria, travelled back and forth to Turkey throughout his life and has now settled, for the time being, in London. The transience of this anti-sculpture - coming and going depending on perspective - has direct parallels in the city that it's housed in as well as the artist's own life.
"I feel very much at home here in Dubai. It's a particular type of mentality that's drawn to these places. It's becoming more common and for me - it represents the future."
Smart, interactive and welcome to varied interpretation, Dust Breeding is a worthy insight into a conceptually tight voice in new Turkish art, and best viewed by night.