Boom Bust Bubble Boogie Woogie
Boom Bust Bubble Boogie Woogie. Dry wall, printed vinyl. 2022. Christopher Joshua Benton, Rakan Ghresi & Ashay Bhave. Curated by Murtaza Vali
Dubai has the largest billboards in the world. While the city has turned breaking Guinness Book world records into an artform, or at least into government policy, these billboards aren’t big for its own sake. Rather, they are big to hide large tracks of unoccupied land in the middle of the city as well as the labor toiling within.
In this way, billboards don’t only produce the utopic dreams of the state—billboards also obscure the blight of the present. The billboard in Dubai physically hides the negative externalities of the real estate it occupies.
Christopher Joshua Benton and his collaborators Rakan Ghresi and Ashay Bhave use film and still imagery in the faux-advertisement to satirizes the aesthetics and rhetoric of real estate marketing, using many of the same tools used to create a real one: digital renderings, stock photography, and aspirational and superlative but largely generic language.
Local and vernacular imaginaries are mined for symbols—dhow sails, palm trees, wind towers, and desert roses are popular and well-known examples—that perform an authenticity that grounds otherwise entirely deterritorialized digital visions of luxury living. The result is an uncanny glocal image, with just enough here to appeal to those at home yet mobile and universal enough to generate interest and investment among those based elsewhere. (Text adapted from curator/writer Murtaza Vali)
Bastakiya Bungalows. Digital render. Christopher Joshua Benton, Rakan Ghresi & Ashay Bhave
Dubai Jumeirah Gardens Estates and Valley Hills. Film, 8: 32 minutes, 2019. Christopher Joshua Benton, Ahmad Makia, Bhoomika Asvinkumar
Also part of the exhibition is the film "Dubai Jumeirah Gardens Villas and Estates Valley Hills," a collaborative work between artist Christopher Joshua Benton, cultural cartographer Ahmad Makia, and urbanist Bhoomika Asvinkumar who take turns lecturing and reading excerpts from their research on real estate and the economic dynamics in the UAE.
Throughout the video, frames are broken-down and reconfigured, much like the working-class people and neighborhoods that are re-tooled for capital growth. These passages are rendered even more hypnotic with custom motion-graphics that multiply the image into complex Arabic geometries, helping the 10-year-old footage reclaim its power to seduce.
Off-plan real estate developments are only as powerful as their ability to make you dream. This video comprises found footage of animations taken from various speculative real estate projects that never got built. They exist solely in the liminal sphere of a utopian vision that never came.
Dubai Jumeirah Gardens Estates and Valley Hills. 2019. Still images from film. Christopher Joshua Benton, Ahmad Makia, Bhoomika Asvinkumar