Imaginary cities built with imaginary cash.
Mirages shimmering in the desert,
Only upon closer inspection did they evaporate.
Highways served the SUVs that sucked her oil.
Overnight, they became Roads to Nowhere;
The desert had at last found its vanishing point.
Solo exhibition by Adam Sébire
Venue: The Rocks Pop-Up.
Address: 47 George Street (side entrance), Sydney, Australia. MAP
Exhibition: Wednesday 2 May till Monday 11 June, 2012.
Hours: Wed/Thu/Sun 12-8pm | Fri-Sat 12-10:30pm
Catalogue: download PDF of works for sale
Roads to Nowhere is an exhibition of photographic stills & video art shot in and around Dubai after the global financial crisis. Deserted, fully-signposted multi-lane highways cut swathes through the sand, only to end equally precipitously in the middle of nowhere; monuments to excess and the money that ran out.
Surrounded by desert, the city-dweller feels small and exposed. There is an uneasiness at such immensity, and intensity, of nature. The desert resists perspectival representation — until it is penetrated by that icon of 'progress', the Highway. It arrives pre-packaged with its own vanishing point and sculpturally minimalist aesthetic, inscribing the sandy void with the familiar markings of civilisation: dotted white lines, roadsigns, streetlights and roundabouts.
With these symbols we attempt to tame the desert, to insist on perspective, to prove we are bigger than its expanse. A desert highway need not have cars; it has just to offer potential: to lead us, in our vehicular isolation, to civilisation at high speed, from even the furthest reaches of nature. Which is precisely what makes a highway that runs out so disturbing. What happened, we ask? What does it mean? Do we turn around and go back? Or do we motor onwards? And so off with bravado we head toward the horizon, confident in our technology, yet secretly fearful of being swallowed by the sands.
The symbolism of desertification hangs heavily over our species as our addiction to fossil fuels slowly cooks the planet. Our car culture leaves its mark on the world not just by upwards manipulation of the global temperature, but in these asphalt and concrete monuments to excess that it leaves behind.
Adam Sébire is a photographer and filmmaker with a number of documentary credits to his name. He is now using multi-screen documentary to explore climate change-driven sea level rise in a postgraduate degree for Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney). His Roads to Nowhere project premières as a collateral gallery exhibition of the Head On Photo Festival in 2012 and is presented in conjunction with Vivid Sydney and The Rocks Pop-Upcurated by Ryszard Dabek for Sydney College of the Arts (SCA). SCA at The Rocks Pop-Up acknowledges the generous financial support of the University of Sydney Chancellor’s Committee grant.
The exhibition comprises a dozen large photographic stills, some accompanied by smaller maps and aerial imagery, occupying the wall-space in a variety of orientations, some as diptychs or triptychs. Two screens, one 9:16 (portrait), one 16:9 (landscape) loop video material. With thanks to Ryszard Dabek (for guidance), Elke Reinhuber (additional camel footage), staff of SHFA, and Stuart Wilkinson (original concept).
Screen shots from The Workers (2012).
Part of the Roads to Nowhere exhibition.
Single-channel High Definition video, mono audio. 9:16 screen ratio.
Dur: approx. 6’00”, looped.
A dozen migrant labourers from the subcontinent — on whose back Dubai’s myth of endless growth is built — pause in their work to return the viewer’s stare.
METROpolis (2011) Single-channel High Definition video. Stereo sound design by Jeff Carey & Merlijn Twaalfhoven. 16:9 screen ratio. Dur: 1’31”. © Adam Sébire
A timelapse journey revealing a metropolis seemingly devoid of human presence.
Camel Roundabout (2012)
Single-channel High Definition video. Stereo audio. 16:9 screen ratio. Dur:. 8’18”. © Adam Sébire.
The wanderings of a herd of camels lost amidst the roundabouts of an abandoned desert ‘suburb’.