Garden of Delight
“There is no boundary, believe me; there is no civilization on one side, no barbarians on the other. There’s simply the forwardmost edge of the mutation advancing inside us.” (from “The Barbarians”, Alessandro Baricco)
‘Garden of Delight’ is a visual case-study on high-speed urbanization, leisure and consumerism in Dubai. The series showcases Dubai as the ultimate playground of globalization and capitalism, and raises questions about authenticity and sustainability.
The rapid transformation of Dubai from a dusty fishing town in the sixties to the ultramodern metropolis of today, fascinates both supporters and critics. With its prestigious shopping malls, artificial islands and iconic skyscrapers, the little emirate at the Persian Gulf is a world player when it comes to tourism and business.
Dubai’s excessive entertainment industry has a big impact on Emirati society. 90 percent of the population in Dubai are expats, only 10 percent are local Emirati citizens. Their traditional islamic values are being challenged by Western lifestyle, imported by expat workers.
Dubai is a generic city: a city without a long history, heritage or a specific character of its own. Dubai is a brand, an artificial construct that is focused primarily on generating profit.
Dubai is the perfect example of a ‘capsular society’: A dual society, in which the first world is an archipelago of shielded islands or ‘capsules’ where it’s pleasant to live; the second world is all the rest: an ocean of poverty and chaos. In a capsular society public space becomes privatized. Capsular architecture – such as gated communities, malls and theme parks – simulates public space on private ground.
The process of urbanization in Dubai strikingly resembles the phenomenon of capsularization. On a local scale there is the segregation between the wealthy inhabitants/expats and the exploited migrant workers. On a global level, the United Arab Emirates can be considered as one big ‘capsule’, a safe haven in the unstable Middle East.