by Roger Grasas
In the last decades, the landscapes of the Arab Gulf region have undergone a mutation driven by increased income from the oil, globalization and mass tourism. These countries have seen a huge transformation, moving from the nomadic, traditional and austere lifestyle of the desert bedouins to a postmodern, urban and consumerist society. 'Min Turab', that takes its title from an arabic expression meaning “from the land”, holds up a mirror to the dyad of nature and technology in a place where the old and the new come together and the lines between them blur completely.
Although this itinerary may be somehow reminiscent of the 19th-century grand tour, in Min Turab the attention is not focused to the most popular sites of photographic pilgrimage but in the opposite direction. The areas to study point to the newest centers of unbridled urban development with an approach from the outskirts, the periphery, and the back alley. 'Min Turab' steps back a few miles and takes in his secondary, less privileged view, addressing towards the 'small'. Apparently anecdotal details, at least in this case, end up being the most meaningful of all. Taken together, the project, developed from 2009 until 2017 calmly scrutinize the exact places where landscape alteration, linked to oil as a main agent of change, has produced a fatal discord, a sort of friction that destroys earlier visions and ideas of a place: the notions that we might have as uninformed foreign spectators, or that locals might have as they deal with landscapes transforming rapidly before their eyes—landscapes that, for the first time in history, they will outlive.
Min Turab also has important geopolitical implications. What would scarcely be remarkable in a Western city is scandalous and fascinating in equal measure to foreigners visiting places like Riyadh, Doha and Dubai. It is hard to resist criticizing the overwhelming deployment of technology only to escape to the equally atrocious spectacle of globalization in countries other than our own.
If the classic conception of landscape, which many of today’s photographic projects have inherited, helped naturalize the ideology of unequal social relationships and disguised the reality of the historic conflict implied therein, then the challenges that current photography must face when reflecting on an increasingly complex landscape are clear. That does not mean, however, that they will be at all easy to address. Perhaps, by identifying the blind spots where waves of images are being swept away and replaced by others of a very different sort, Min Turab allows us to confront this new visual regime that imposes the conditions of hyper-visibility of some landscapes and the dramatic dismissal of others.
About the author:
Roger Grasas was born in Barcelona in 1970. Began his professional career as a photographer in 2002 documenting cooperation projects for international foundations and for UNESCO organization. Since then, traveling has become the core of his artistic work, translating his experiences and reflections into visual arts. As of 2009, he started a new stagein the Persian Gulf region. Between 2010 and 2013 he lived between Riyadh and Dubai where he developed his long term landscape documentary project 'Min Turab'.
The speech of Roger Grasas focuses on the reflection on the Nature-Culture dichotomy and presents the experience of the trip as the guiding thread of the same project, transferring his experiences and reflections to the field of visual arts. The core of his work investigates the role and importance that technology shows within the postmodern digital society, the state of 'estrangement' and confusion experienced by the human being in the context of the contemporary landscape and also the increasingly common connections between science and art.
He is regular contributor to several Spanish (El País, La Vanguardia etc) and international publications (National Geographic. His projects have been exhibited in festivals and galleries of Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, England, USA, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Mexico. Among them are 'ATENEA' (2012), 'Min Turab' (2010-2017), 'Hotel, sweet hotel' (2005-2016) or the most recent 'Ha Aretz Ha Muvtahat' (2017).
During 2017 his works 'Atenea' and 'Min Turab' have been published and distributed worldwide by the prestigious editorial RM Verlag. The last years he has been nomimated or awarded in several international contests such as Art Photo Bcn 2014, Photolucida 2017, Exposure Awards 2018 by Lens Culture, HEAD On Festoval 2018 or Center for Fine Art Photography Landscape award.