Philippe Chancel — Desert Spirit
Past: May 20 → July 17, 2010
These images are from the series “Desert Spirit”, made over a four year period in the United Arab Emirates and North Korea.
It took barely 50 years for a piece of desert on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula to become a coveted magnet of interest, to the point that it became the symbol of a new model of growth and development for the 21st Century.
In the Emirates, the promises of the future were such that dreams turned into not just reality but into a hyped-up version of modernity, fuelled by and paid for with rivers of oil. This was the starting point of my thinking. I was both fascinated and at the same time gripped by violent anxiety about the excesses of this process of boundless growth that seemed to be achieved without regard for basic considerations of sustainable development or ecological awareness.
Cash is king and here and money was being lavished on sensational urban and architectural projects whose final purpose remains deeply perplexing.
The answer could be in the concept of the “Dreamlands” that are the basis of projects and a type of architecture designed entirely for the purpose of leisure and illusion. This phenomenon grew and developed throughout the 20th Century and has given rise to mirages that have sprung out of the desert, in Las Vegas, and also in Dubai, to mention but two. In this stream of symbols that become “image”, I have tried to capture where the virtual and the real meet and fuse so cleverly. But such overblown ambition seems to crystallise all our questioning, fear and fantasy of today about the societies of the future.
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