Exhibition of the Week: Fouad Elkoury, 'The Lost Empire' & Lamya Gargash, 'Traces' at The Third Line, Dubai

“He always arrived with a bottle of whiskey and a smile”Negar Azimi, Mute Witness (Catalogue essay for Fouad Elkoury, The Lost Empire)

Absence was the order of the day at the Third Line last night, when Capsule Arts went along for the opening of new exhibitions of Fouad Elkoury in the main space, and Lamya Gargash in the Project Space. Humans - or rather the keenly felt absence thereof - were omnipresent throughout both shows.

With Traces, Gargash continues her documentation of lesser-known spaces within the UAE landscape; we were reminded somewhat of our own Arcadia Blank’s photographic documentation of his interventions across Dubai’s neighbourhoods.

We particularly liked the abandoned party vibe running through several of Gargash’s photographs. Whether in her photos detailing a sad flock of balloons huddling together, or a circle of mismatched chairs in a parking lot seemingly in conversation with one another, we couldn’t help feeling like we’d just missed out on something good.

Elkoury meanwhile has been busy visiting disused Soviet military bases across Poland, Hungary, Estonia and East Germany, where despite being told ‘there’s nothing to see here’ by guards, he came across some very beautiful instances of nature reclaiming its territory and softening the monolithic and austere military architecture. There is a sense of complete stillness and isolation in his photographs, a withdrawal from civilization.

In her excellent catalogue essay for the show, Mute Witness, Bidoun magazine’s Negar Azimi writes: “Somewhere between becoming and unbecoming. And yet, one of the defining characteristics of these remnants of a Soviet past is that they exist in spite of the world. Everywhere in these photographs, a persistent grass grows – invading concrete crevices and cracks or inching along retires walls – as if reminding us that these wars, these empires, are mere specks on the historical record. The history of humans is a small thing. Nature persists.”

Both shows run until 29 May 2014. More info on the gallery’s website.

In pictures:

Visitors at the opening of Fouad Elkoury's show
Visitors at the opening of Fouad Elkoury's show
Detail of Fouad Elkoury's Borne Sulinowo, 2010
Detail of Fouad Elkoury's Borne Sulinowo, 2010
Monolithic forms - a detail of Fouad Elkoury's Bunker, 2010
Monolithic forms - a detail of Fouad Elkoury's Bunker, 2010
Detail of Fouad Elkoury's
Detail of Fouad Elkoury's
Lamya Gargash's work installed in the Third Line Project Space
Lamya Gargash's work installed in the Third Line Project Space
Sad balloons. A detail of Lamya Gargash's 'My Birthday', 2014
Sad balloons. A detail of Lamya Gargash's 'My Birthday', 2014