Alserkal Avenue Follower
Alserkal Avenue: The Follower
   Reading 4 min

While visiting Alserkal Avenue, keep an eye out for the outdoor artworks featured in The Follower, the Avenue’s latest public art project. The first site-specific commissions from the series appeared on the Avenue in September 2022: Meadow by Fahd Burki and Zenith by Ala Ebtekar. The same year, in November, Sahand Hesamiyan added his Passage. In January 2023, Sentinels I-IV by Timo Nasseri were revealed. Later, Sarah Almehairi presented her “don’t overlook the weather (as your thoughts collect)”.

The project’s title refers to Aldebaran (“the follower” in Arabic), a star in Taurus which seems to follow Al Thuraya (the Pleiades). These two constellations are of great importance for astral navigation in the night sky as indicated by Ahmad ibn Majid, a famous 15th century Arab poet, scholar, and mariner of the Indian Ocean. If you are attentive to your environment and know how to read the signs (the position of the sun and stars, wind’s direction, etc.), you know where you are and can tell the exact time of day or what weather to expect. So to locate yourself, it is not enough to trust your instincts: you must also learn how to read signs from other sources.

Outdoor neon-lit sculptures Sentinels I-IV by Timo Nasseri  (German – Iranian artist, based in Berlin) instantly draw visitors’ attention. Fascinated by the Razzle Dazzle ship camouflage used during WWI, Nasseri believes the designs are inspired by animal, indigenous, and abstract patterns from across the globe. Consisting of strong shapes, the sculptures encompass the allusion to maritime disappearances and the return of ancient spirit guides and protectors. They form a new constellation across the Avenue and encourage the visitors to look up and search for other signs and symbols. Artworks were produced in collaboration with Lawrie Shabibi Gallery.

Timo Nasseri x Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Sentinels I-IV (installation view). Photo: Musthafa Aboobacker / Seeing Things. Dubai, 2022.

Emirati artist and writer Sarah Almehairi‘s site-specific public artwork “don’t overlook the weather (as your thoughts collect)” creates a contemplative space within a passage which one usually just passes through or where they might stop to take a quick picture for Instagram. Almehairi marks both the ground and the sky. On the ground are objects gathered by her from the neighbourhood. Above the visitors’ heads, silver text moves and shines in the sunlight, encouraging them to take note of the weather. The artwork invites the visitors to be in the present moment and appreciate everything which is surrounding them, while they are going towards their destination.

Sarah Almehairi, don’t overlook the weather (as your thoughts collect) (installation view). Photo: Ismail Noor / Seeing Things. Dubai, 2022.

In his commission Passage that comprises wide strips of patterned fabric, Tehran-based artist Sahand Hesamiyan highlights natural elements often overlooked today and reminds viewers of their lost knowledge of the environment. The fabric strips serve as a filter for light and air and reference the sky at different times of day. Moved by the wind and blocking the light, they cast starry shadows on the ground and encourage one to be more observant and appreciate beauty in daily life.

Sahand Hesamiyan, Passage (installation view). Photo: Musthafa Aboobacker / Seeing Things. Dubai, 2022.

The Zenith series by visual artist Ala Ebtekar based in the USA is inspired by Suhrawardi, an important 11th-century Islamic philosopher. He considered light the source of knowledge and believed that it operates at all levels and hierarchies of reality. In his Zenith, Ebtekar employed the cyanotype process to merge earthly matter and myth, painting and photography. He exposed the artworks from the series at the sun’s zenith for a day in each of the four seasons. Thus, the artist connected human and cosmic timescales. The works depict swirling clouds on the deep blue sky overlain by glimmering stellate inclusions. The cloud openings create portals to the cosmos and to the inner world of the viewer.

Ala Ebtekar, Zenith.

Pakistani artist Fahd Burki‘s site-specific commissions are Sunset and Meadow. Placed between grey architecture, Sunset is a gradient transitioning from peachy orange to deep blue: the colours of an evening sky. A soft green gradient in a grey landscape, Meadow reminds one of an oasis. The artwork meets spectators in their physical space as solid green form and draws them to the illusion: a field with a fence which marks the threshold just before the exit.

The outdoor art pieces included in The Follower project will be on view until 31 August 2023. To learn more, please visit its official web page.

You might also be interested in visiting Polite Existence by Tsuyoshi Hisakado.