x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Star Wars brings out the futuristic side of Dubai

The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, has given his blessing to a new book that merges images from his film with scenes in Dubai.

The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, has given his blessing to a new book by photographer Cedric Delsaux that merges images from his film with scenes in Dubai. <b>Click here to see Delsaux's photos</b>
The creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, has given his blessing to a new book by photographer Cedric Delsaux that merges images from his film with scenes in Dubai. Click here to see Delsaux's photos

DUBAI // The Star Wars creator George Lucas has gained a reputation as one of Hollywood’s great recluses, seldom speaking in public or giving interviews.

But now the legendary director, who describes himself as shy, has been moved to break his silence to give his verdict on a book about Dubai.

The work is Dark Lens, which features photographs by the French artist Cédric Delsaux that depict characters and spaceships from the Star Wars films against the backdrop of scenes of Dubai. In one image a droid army masses along Sheikh Zayed Road, in another the unmistakable figure of Darth Vader gazes out at night at a half-constructed building and in a third, the giant shape of an AT-AT Walker, barely visible through the sandy haze, looms over an intersection.

The book is due to be published later this year and has an introduction by Lucas, who writes: “Over the years, many artists have interpreted Star Wars in ways that extend well beyond anything we saw in the films.

“One of the most unique and intriguing interpretations that I have seen is in the work of Cédric Delsaux, who has cleverly integrated Star Wars characters and vehicles into stark urban, industrial – but unmistakably earthbound – environments. As novel and disruptive as his images are, they are also completely plausible.”

The works were first exhibited under the title The Dark Lens: Dubai Invasion, held at the Empty Quarter gallery at the Dubai International Financial Centre in 2009, and quickly became a hot topic among Star Wars bloggers.

“It’s developed into a cult thing, which I didn’t expect when it opened,” said Elie Domit, the gallery’s creative partner. “There were only 20 people at the opening, which isn’t many.

“But the show went on to be very successful sales-wise, mainly with Dubai-based and Sharjah-based collectors.”

Delsaux had already produced digitally manipulated photos featuring Star Wars characters in other settings, and was at first reluctant to reprise the idea in Dubai.

“I approached him in 2007 to do this project but he didn’t want to do it; he didn’t want to repeat himself,” Mr Domit said. “Then I insisted and in 2008 he came to Dubai to shoot.

“The idea was not that we were into the Star Wars thing. Star Wars is more like the psyche of the pop culture that we grew up in, the sci-fi fantasy world. It’s a phenomenon that  represents popular culture, and everyone interprets the symbolism in their own way.

“This is why we said in the text at the exhibition, perhaps half-jokingly, that people build cities so they can live in a sci-fi world, and Dubai is a prime example of this. Before the crisis, if you had seen a Star Wars ship you would have thought it was a new property or a new project, that’s how over-the-top this city was, and we zoned in on this kind of thing.”

¿The process of creating the pictures has evolved over the years. The first step is to shoot the backdrops, then Delsaux photographs the models in his studio, making sure the lighting matches the outdoor settings. The two are then merged digitally.

“At first it was toys that were embedded into the images,” Mr Domit said. “Later it was 3D models; he worked with the George Lucas team with the real models from the films.

“It’s a matter of getting the right model and the right lighting, so for example the picture of the drone army on Sheikh Zayed Road took several months to create.”

The Dark Lens book is due to be launched in October by French publisher Éditions Xavier Barral and will cost €39 (Dh206). It contains an essay by Kazys Varnelis, a US academic, who writes: “That the Millennium Falcon flies past the upper reaches of the Burj Khalifa seems almost plausible. Indeed, it raises the question of which is stranger: the familiar forms of Star Wars or the unfamiliar forms of the urban landscape.”

A selection of Delsaux’s Star Wars photos will be on show in London from July 18 to July 23 during an event called Dubai Futures that is being staged as part of the Shubbak celebration of Arab art.

csimpson@thenational.ae