By Zaineb Al Hassani

DUBAI // Partly inspired by his love of machinery and a cult television show, Sami al Turki has employed his childhood passions to deliver a deeper message about greed and ambition.

Sami al Turki with one of his work at The Pavilion in Downtown Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Sami al Turki with one of his work at The Pavilion in Downtown Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

His latest exhibition, Constructakons, opens in Dubai at The Pavilion Downtown today and documents the growth of the city in recent years through photographs and video.

The Saudi photographer and conceptual artist, who has lived in Dubai for a decade, said the title of the exhibit was inspired by his natural predisposition towards construction.

The vehicles he captured reminded him of a 1980s-era television show that featured alien robots able to disguise themselves as cars, trucks, or planes.

“I look at them as sort of characters like the ones in Transformers,” he said. “They are individual characters sitting there, idle, but before they were very much used.”

The photographic part of the exhibition will focus on idle construction machinery, such as trucks and cranes.

“The exhibition was also influenced by the saturation I’ve had, since I was a child, with construction and machines. I think all boys have a fascination with them.”

For the 26-year-old, who studied photography at the American University of Dubai, the exhibition also holds a deeper meaning.

Constructakons explores the ripple effect of the recession on the community, as well as what caused it.

“There are two videos, one called Billboards, and another that I haven’t figured out a name for really, the former of which is a comment on this life everyone was promised here, during the pre-recession, and how I disagreed with it.”

Billboards, which consists of the artist filming oversized billboards in the city, is accompanied by another video in which al Turki takes aim at scaffolding.

“It was too much propaganda, in my opinion, and a lot of people that I know were hurt after the financial crisis because they believed in these billboards,” he said. “Regardless or not, people believed what they read. Seeing is believing.”

In a case of life imitating art, many of the billboards featured in the video have since been stripped bare due to high fees.

“A lot of people have left and been hurt – personal friends of mine – and maybe people were just a bit too greedy back then,” added al Turki.

The artist, whose work has been displayed at the Venice Biennale, added that the message could also relate to Saudi Arabia’s “corporate capitalist culture”, which has seen the country move from “empty tents in the desert to giant malls over the past 50 years”.

Although the exhibition will end on July 20, al Turki’s work on the project will continue for some time.

“To be honest, I’ve never ever completed any project I’ve ever done. Everything is just ongoing. It’s never-ending, and I think at some point in my life, maybe in 10 or 20 years, I’ll be dragging so much baggage around, just trying to finish whatever it is. It’s an addiction.”

Admission to Constructakons is free. The Pavilion is open from 10am-midnight daily. The preview today runs from 7.30pm- 9.30pm.