Art hits the road in Dubai at Traffic
Urban Epidermis: A Journey of Dilapidation
"When people go back home they usually connect with natural features, such as mountains and rivers," says Vikram Divecha as we look at the stretch of asphalt he's managed to erect on Traffic's gallery wall. "But I've realised that when I go back to Mumbai, it's only really the city itself I have any relationship with - traffic jams, the street lights, the people."
The UAE-based artist Divecha has expressed this bond through a city's most visible symbol of its own decay - a cracked and oil-marked road.
Starting in November, Divecha sought the means to hang asphalt like a canvas. "Just taking a cut of road would weigh something like 600 kilograms, so that wasn't an option. I then started using cement sheets, coated in a poured epoxy resin and dashed aggregate over it to get the right look."
It's a very different kind of street art. Patches of oil and a thin coat of bitumen paint, and driving over each piece to give them cracks of wear and tear, has made for a believable end result. It's odd to see this very mundane street furniture extracted from its usual environment and placed in the airy white interior of a gallery.
Divecha says he only realised how much his sense of self was absorbed into urban fabrics when he moved to Dubai. He has watched the city spring up around him over the past seven years and its centre change several times. "A new shoe comes along and your old worn-out shoes are forgotten. I see that same process with the movement from older areas in Dubai to the newer areas."
This constant shifting - or "churning wheel", as he describes the experience of living in a city - pushed him towards a series of work that could contain the cast-off appearance of a rundown area. That we identify more with the transient city than the immutable natural landscape of rivers and mountains speaks of a very modern angst: tied to places that are constantly changing, we age with them and witness our own dilapidation expressed in their slow passage to ruin.
This, in part, is what drives Divecha's lonely roads. While the works deviate little from this visually and can be a little repetitive as a result, there is a nod to some of the paired-down formalism of minimalist art - a reminder that those single white lines on a road wouldn't look too out of place on a canvas - and makes for an interesting touch.
Continues until September 1.
Monitor: Issue 1
What detritus do you end up with at the end of a holiday? Maybe the odd business card from a hotel, receipts and ticket stubs stuffed into the lining of your bag, and a handful of colourful currency?
Rami Farook, the founder of Traffic, has brought together and assembled such debris (or what he calls "traces") from his recent trip to Kochi in the South Indian state of Kerala.
It's the second time Farook has presented a Monitor show, in which he drops his curatorial-cum-directorial hat and turns artist to invite us into his own seed-scattering mindscape.
Last year, he showed off everything from a pedestal without a monument to annotated pages ripped from a book on cultural theory. It wasn't an exhibition per se, rather an erudite jumble of ideas and thoughts, accumulated captions and quotes expressed in a loosely artistic language.
But his second Monitor is even further from an exhibition: it's simply a record of his week-long trip to suss out the Kochi-Muziris Biennale ahead of its debut in December.
He's returned with a host of material including shaky videos shot from the window of a rickshaw, transcripts of conversations (including a weird tour of the Taj hotel in Mumbai en route home), a stack of books and trinkets.
The videos are probably of most interest here. At one point, Farook engages a rickshaw driver in a lengthy discussion about Kerala's movement away from the communist party and the effect it has had on the state. There are also a few short videos of stray animals strolling around, a shot of the former house of Vasco de Gama (once the governor of Portuguese India) and a whole raft of photographs annotated with Farook's thoughts.
But does it work? As a summertime diversion and a pleasant multimedia tour of one of India's most vivid and fascinating states, then yes. But it's emphatically not an exhibition. There's a sense that we're being made privy to a gallery owner's overseas jolly, and a danger of this coming off like self-aggrandisement (I'm not sure we need to see every lengthy email exchange that Farook batted around during his holidays).
Nonetheless, there are enough little gems in here that anyone with even a passing interest in the unique south-side of the subcontinent will be intrigued. Some of the colour recorded on the streets of Kochi is excellent and, ever so slightly, we feel like we've had a little gulp of India by the time we're on the way out.
Continues until July 21.
Traffic is located at 179 Umm Suqeim Road (East), Al Quoz, Dubai. Open from Sunday to Thursday, 10am-7pm, and Saturday, 12pm-6pm. Call 04 347 0209 or visit www.viatraffic.org.
Updated: July 16, 2012 04:00 AM