How has industrial and technological development affected our way of living?
THABIT: Building For Future Generations (2022)
A photographic series capturing the impacts of industrial development on our natural environment and questioning our understanding of permanence in relation to building and dwelling.
As our rural and urban landscapes undergo rapid transformation against the backdrop of climate change, tourism and industrial development, the impacts of these changes manifest themselves in the physical and social fabric of spaces and the communities that live within them. In Jordan’s Badia (desert), the rise of new materials, construction techniques and concrete homes has affected the socio-economic conditions of local Bedouin communities. It has also inflicted permanent damage on the environment.
Remnants from industrial activity are now strewn about with materials from the Badia’s tent-crafting work in the desert. Some of the objects are found and re-appropriated by the Bedouins, while others are disposed of by builders, discarded and left to disintegrate. The Badia’s land—and homes—slowly filled up with foreign objects that became an intrinsic part of the place and its culture, creating a liminal space marked by tension; where one can’t always tell what’s new from what’s old, what’s encroaching onto the space and what’s been holding its ground for decades. The Bedouins, whose lifestyle was described by Ibn Khaldun (14th-century) as “the negation of building,” are now adapting to the changes of their socio-economic and political environment.
Eroded in the desert, these overlooked artifacts—whether discarded or preserved—are records of the political, economic, sociocultural, and technological forces that govern the Badia.
How can we challenge the notion of permanence in contemporary architecture?
During my ethnographic expedition to Wadi Rum, I collected these scrap objects, which include: a mihtah (محتة), a gazelle horn weaving tool; Lafarge’s Thabet (ثابت), a multi-purpose construction cement; and a shababa (شبّابة), a flute made from a reappropriated steel pipe.; among other things.
Akin to the syncretism of Bedouin traditions and urban practices in Wadi Rum, the series mixes objects of different natures and that serve distinct purposes. In the series, the found objects are removed from their original context and situatedness. They are photographed against a white background; becoming subjects rather than objects, central rather than peripheral. They are recognized as active participants in the postmodern history and the cultural memory of the Badia.
These objects also put into question the meaning of permanence within the context of building and architecture. Is today’s conventional understanding of still, immovable architecture — like concrete — what’s permanent? Or is what’s permanent rather the architecture of circularity, represented by the Bedouin tent, which has been assumed to be impermanent, yet is constantly in flux — parts replaced, parts repurposed?
Contact me if you’re interested in exhibiting or acquiring the artwork series.