Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
"Surface Tensions" investigates the contemporary landscape of the Arabian Gulf, where the effects of human activity on the natural environment leave a particularly noticeable mark. The region is uniquely pure in its natural composition: a largely sunburned, barren land with characteristically yellow, ochre and orange hues of stone and desert sands. Its visual purity highlights even the lightest intervention in the landscape as if it were a foreign body. Yet the interventions on this land are far from being light—some of the most ambitious building projects are transforming this part of the world at record speed.
As elsewhere in the world, the confluence of nature and culture is an ever-evolving dynamic that defines our species’ relationship to the planet. It is a relationship turning progressively more complex while often becoming increasingly fraught with tension. Humans are not alone in shaping their environment, but we are uniquely placed in the animal kingdom in that what we shape ends up posing a mounting alternative to nature, transforming it into the man-made, or at the very least, man-altered, environment.
Within the monochromatic and uniform landscapes of this particular region, the drama plays itself out among the stark contrasts that emerge, pitting the natural against the man-made. The dynamic reveals a deep tension between what can be seen as progress—the aspirations of the human community—and the environment—the place we inhabit, inherit and possess as the “container” for our lives.
It is a peculiar condition of humanity that we make such an uncertain mark on what surrounds us, not knowing how it plays out beyond our time. In this specific region where the human element has a particularly noticeable presence, there is no effort at concealment that the land is there to be dominated, and progress is in itself a force of nature, rivaling nature itself.