Sami Al-Turki (1984). You need time to think about him. His art is not, or not yet, in a settled playground, but I would not label it eclectic. Al-Turki just sees more than other people do and then tries, and fails perhaps, to define things rationally. I have been told that he will run away from books, such as they have in schools in Saudi Arabia, to find ease in the rituals at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. And not with his eyes closed. He will notice that birds fly circles around Kaaba when people perform the ritual of tawaf and will formulate a ‘why’ while being reluctant to provide an answer. Is there truth in dancing and not in reading, I wonder? Or in driving along the streets of Dubai where the artist, who is himself from Jeddah, noticed migrant workers walking. He offered some of these ’normal people’ a ride and a business deal. While presenting them with a disposable camera he asked them in return for the ride to make pictures of those aspects of their daily life, which they considered most important. Al-Turki then visited their living quarters and made portraits of the men who were mostly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Lifts (2007-2008) became the title of this art collaboration and in it the artist’s eyes - and Dubai’s ambition - were offered a ride to where they would otherwise have never travelled. Eventually, if you look at the pictures, Al-Turki’s eyes settled on the hand of one of his co-workers. One of those many hands that are building Dubai and make things in general. The work was exhibited in Vienna at Christine Koenig Gallery in 2008. The artist, who has studied photography at the American University in Dubai (but was not impressed by a public relations visit of an American general) considers it a documentary work.

Al-Turki’s next works are three artist videos, two of which were made for his graduation. They were shown in the Abu Dhabi presentation at the Venice Biennial (2009) and in Berlin as part of the Edge of Arabia promotion tour (2010). One is named Billboards and captures a man at the back of an oversized billboard slowly beating it’s framework with an iron rod in response to fast moving drive-by impressions of the board’s messages at night. It’s like a ritualistic dance in a crowded discotheque, and, actually, quite pointless. The framework keeping up the board gives not an inch. The only incident of joy is when for a short moment the word ’Make’ stands out in an add and appeases this, our, his, Mohammed’s wish to knock down false promises.

The noise and rhythm of the iron rod seem to change into a man silently playing with a twig while sitting down in a local landscape in the opening scene of Running. Both this video and Nostalgia are about a person, who is ‘about to embark on a significant journey, as he wishes it to be retaliation‘ and on which he risks to ‘hopelessly awaken into the third and a half dimension’ which is then described by the artist in poetic images in the guide made by Rami Farook for Grey borders / grey frontiers.

Washaeg (2009) is perhaps such a half dimension, between things made by bulldozers or caterpillars, where artists with travelling eyes and minds can grab time and hold it for a moment of physical research. Enter future and the past and move into the present from a different angle and turn for another. ‘Nexus’ is said to be the translation of the Arab word Washaeg, but just try speaking the original word in a trance. The photographs of this series of fine art were first on show in a solo exhibition in Paris earlier this year and will continue to Istanbul in November 2010. They speak of an empty world, making large things with heavy equipment, and failing for sure. The series has an extensive opening statement by the artist that speaks of an apocalyptic vision for global culture, rationally explained by ‘connecting the dots.’ (October 28, 2010).

Grey borders / Grey frontiers, Berlin 10 June - 18 July 2010, Exhibition guide.

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Greenbox dictionary of Saudi Arabian artists

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From top to bottom: Nostalgia on show at Edge of Arabia, Berlin (2010).