BEYOND THE FENCE | JALAL BIN THANEYA
By Maha Alsharif
Jalal Bin Thaneya, "Tires 01", 2018, Photography, 120 x 160 cm. © Jalal Bin Thaneya, courtesy of Tashkeel.
Beyond the Fence by Jalal Bin Thaneya explores the collateral value of industrial products and waste. The nearly to scale photographs of raw industrial structures document the workings of industrial facilities, at the same time speak about the artist’s experience having gone through a lengthy and out of protocol security process to gain access into these facilities. Therefore, the series not only captures what the facilities are and how they operate, but also brings attention to less obvious yet important ways they contribute to modern living.
Taking stylistic inspiration from photographers like Margret Bourke-White, Paul Strand, Edward Burynsky, and Charles Schieler, Bin Thaneya presents industrial environments in their raw states, using straightforward techniques that rely on natural light complimenting the subjects and surroundings. He presents something direct or rather hiding in plain sight, that does not have a particular opinion, but has a strong stance and leverage on society.
Jalal Bin Thaneya, "Oil and Gas", 2018, Photography, 127 x 160 cm. © Jalal Bin Thaneya, courtesy of Tashkeel.
At a time oversaturated with polished and carefully framed pictures, the artist directs his lens to rough arcane locations that make many modern activities, like easy transportation, possible. Considering the oil and gas industry is at the core of others, the artist planned to capture it at unglamorous stages in its life cycle; in oil refineries where the raw material is processed, and in scrapyards where industrial waste is sorted. However due to safety and security regulations, his project was obstructed and he was forced to spend the majority of his time trying to get permission to enter. With his creativity distracted and his time limited, Bin Thaneya was faced by unforeseen technical and conceptual challenges.
In order to achieve the aesthetic quality that he had envisioned, timing was a critical element. Bin Thaneya says, “I don’t take pictures all year round, there’s a certain time of the year during which I make images”, so unanticipated delays risked losing the apt natural light he required. While he initially used 4x5 film, which takes about two weeks to develop between Dubai, Berlin and New York, he had to find a faster alternative in digital cameras. He then was able to achieve comparable quality using a medium format Hasselblad camera.
Jalal Bin Thaneya, "Scrapyard 02", 2018, Photography, 148 x 187 cm. © Jalal Bin Thaneya, courtesy of Tashkeel.
On the conceptual level, the artist’s experience to obtain entry permits made him aware of the impact these facilities have that transcend industrial and economic aspects. In the sense that a threat to them means a threat on the country’s security, stability, political and economic stance, environment and public health, and ultimately potential growth.
Although the images of steel structures, piles of tires, and tired engines in the series may appear disconnected from the human experience, the viewer identifies with the artist’s vantage and presence. In which, in addition to photography, his experience and his making process, to physically reach beyond the fence, are also a performative medium that helped open a dialogue on a much broader subject.
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