A rolling stone gathers no moss. At least that’s how the saying goes, and it is that figure of speech that a group of North African artists have interpreted in their own ways at Etemad gallery in Dubai this month.
Pierre Qui Roule is a group show by Faycal Baghriche, Ymane Fakhir and Katia Kameli, who all use photography to illustrate their -transience.
“They are all expressing being uprooted from their culture,” explains Abir Hanna, the gallery manager at Etemad. “The title translates to ‘rolling stone’.”
So, with an invitation to roll through the exhibition, it is Baghriche’s work that the viewer encounters first. He opens the show with a collection of photographs of prayer rooms in Canada. Stripped of their geographic context and empty of life, they become pockets of his Islamic culture encapsulated in four walls, somehow a representation of the uprooted person who also carries his culture and heritage inside the four walls of his physical body.
Also interesting is Mecca, a photograph of a reconstruction of Islam’s holiest site used on a film set in Morocco. Here, the artist continues his discussion of taking something out of its original geographic context.
Following Baghriche’s work are photographs and a video installation from Kameli, a French--Algerian artist who is fascinated with capturing powerful images that leave the viewer questioning where they were taken.
“In most of my images you have to ask yourself where it is happening,” explains Kameli. “I am interested in the third space, the in-between space, the place that is neither here nor there.”
Having an Algerian father and a French mother led her to question herself about territories at a young age, Kameli continues, and through her art, she explores the fact that all places are the same, it is just the point of view that -changes.
In her video work Dissolution, she shows ships going in and out of the port in Algiers, passing through a plume of steam from a nearby power station. The effect is a somewhat blurred image that symbolises her message completely.
“The construction of the image makes the discourse totally clear,” she says. “There is an undefined space in the centre that could be anywhere and it becomes more and more blurred. I put the viewer in the situation of expecting something to happen but nothing -happens.”
Finally, the work of Fakhir, a Moroccan, takes elements of her native culture, such as a Moroccan wedding cake or a stairwell, but drained of colour and context so that they become abstract objects.
In her artist statement, she describes the pieces as having become decontextualised to the point of becoming neutral and impersonal – perhaps an interpretation of her own self having been displaced from Morocco to France, where she now lives.
This is the first time any of the artists have been shown in Dubai and Kameli says it is really the ideal place for her work to be shown.A
“Dubai is like some sort of utopia,” she says. “It is in the middle of the desert and people come from everywhere to live there in transience. It is a strange mix but it works. In a way, it represents what I also deal with. I think you can find yourself in that kind of space because you are uprooted from your normal boundaries.”