Portikus20 July – 15 September 2019
Curated by Christina Lehnert
Visitors to the space encounter a series of sculptures cast from molds used to fabricate the public drinking fountains that have become a distinctive aspect of the urban landscape of the Arabian Gulf. The fountains (and, in turn, Farid’s sculptures) follow the forms of various vessels that have been used to carry and store water, from a traditional clay pot to the now-ubiquitous plastic bottle. The vessels were chosen by the artist in thinking about one’s relationship to water in the desert, and the shifting ideas surrounding its scarcity that have accompanied the development of the oil-centered industry.
The exhibition is the starting point of a long-term investigation between Portikus and Staedelschule that examines life in the Anthropocene and the economic determinants for the exploitation of natural resources.
Fed by desalination plants, the drinking fountains function as contemporary stand-ins to village wells and other communal water sources, and as a tokenistic remembrance of the past. As a whole, In Lieu of What Was considers the use of water as a political tool throughout the region; for example, its role in the draining of the marshlands of Southern Iraq, the conservation and management of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers across national borders, and the controlled retention of water from people and animals as a form of forced deportation.
Through this spatial installation, Farid connects history, economic development, and material culture in a subtle yet compelling visualization of the ecological crisis in the Arabian Gulf and its relentless demands on nature.
Director: Philippe Pirotte
Curator: Christina Lehnert
Photos: Diana Pfammatter