Akram Zaatari’s videos, films, photographic installations and publications excavate past landscapes and reorganise the finds in his own present narratives. His SB14 work, The Landing (2019), takes as its starting point Shaabiyat Al Ghurayfah, a public housing project built for descendants of Al Kutby tribe (pronounced ‘Ketby’) in Al Madam, Sharjah in the early 1980s. In 1994, the families moved to new housing in the vicinity, leaving their old houses to be covered slowly in shifting sands. Today Shaabiyyat Al Ghurayfah looks like ancient ruins.
The Landing consists of a feature-length film presented in the gallery along with documentary components. In the film, Sharif Sehnaoui, Abed Kobeissy and Ali Hout are stuck in the desert. Their moves, their communication, their discovery of location take the form of an acoustic exploration of space. A repertoire of simple gestures playfully engages with structure, space, threshold, verticality and perspective. Their acts resonate with artist Hassan Sharif's early performances, such as Swing, Digging and Standing, and Recording Stones (all 1983), which were staged in the UAE desert outside urban centres. Cables, sewage pipes, tubes, shovels, kitchen tools, electric air blowers and even a helicopter landing on site are all deployed in Zaatari’s film for their sonic rather than narrative potential—creating refractions, confrontations and transformations in a broken narrative. Also included in The Landing is a video produced from audio interviews with Rashed Ben Khelfan, a former resident of Al Ghurayfah, and his son-in-law Muhayyar Ali Rashed, in which they reflect on life in Al Madam during the first ten years after the country’s unification. In the accompanying installation, a car featured in the film has been placed partway between the gallery and its courtyard, transgressed by the gallery’s glass façade, a transparent barrier between inside and outside. Finally, a recent photograph shows Shaabiyyat Al Ghurayfah today, filled with visiting tourists and families.
Behind-the-scenes video of 'The Landing' (2019)
This behind-the-scenes video from the making of ‘The Landing’ (2019) includes never-before-seen footage and interviews with Zaatari about the creation of the feature-length film, which premiered at Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019) and has been screened at festivals all over the world, most recently at 70th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). Here, Zaatari shares the story behind the production of the film and the experience of shooting on location in Al Madam, Sharjah.