The sand settles over the stand-alone facades that advertise Dubai’s formerly burgeoning suburban developments. An interactive landscape. (Please use headphones.)
Architectural rendering of Falconcity of Wonders.
“THE WORLD HAS BEEN CANCELED,”
said a Dubai real estate developer to The Times
of London this September. The three-hundred-island archipelago in the Arabian Sea—an invention of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum—is one of many land-transubstantiation projects begun in the United Arab Emirates in the past decade. After suspending construction on the World
, its principals paused a sister project of spiraling, man-made atolls called the Universe
. Falconcity of Wonders
, a residential community intended to house replicas of the great monuments of the ancient and modern world—motto: “Beyond History”—also fell victim to the economic collapse.
The postcard image
of Dubai is one of metonymic islands, clusters of metallic towers, and irrigated oases. But many of those elaborate aggregations of earth now resemble nothing more than abandoned set pieces, the products of so much magical thinking. Property rates have dropped 50 percent from last year, though in recent months this slide has abated. The waves are lapping over the island nations of the World, and the sun and sand are eating away the city’s steel carapaces.
On the side of a road forty-five minutes outside Dubai, another new community is advertised. The facades of model homes are staked into the sand, driveways wind over the dunes, and a lone deciduous tree guards each land plot. Bosnian artist Zlatan Filipović made twelve trips over the past three years to document this imagined community sprouting in the desert. In daylight, the houses are revealed to be billboards, unsteady planks of wood with cables snaking through the drifts beneath them, but at night the facades are illuminated and the silhouettes glow against the desert sky. Construction has slowed but not ceased entirely.
Filipović’s photographs and soundscapes were exhibited by the Sarajevo National Gallery
in a previous incarnation, called Sandbox
. Now the artist has reconfigured these elements and new documentation to create an interactive landscape. The audio recordings are compiled from ambient sound captured at three locations: the desert where the facades stand; the construction site, at night when cement pumps still labor; and the river at Dubai’s delta, where workers and raw materials are trafficked.
On the next page, click allow to grant the program access to your microphone. Click and drag the boxes to reveal further images of the landscape.