An aspirational lifestyle has emerged in the Gulf, one based on positivity, efficiency and productivity. Its proponents circulate on social media, TV and YouTube changing the way that we interact at home, in public and at work. Positivity and productivity are now the markers of success and there are considerable efforts to mold society into a happy, efficient, productive one. What are the implications of applying the same strategies meant for individual positivity and “improvement” to the many?
Ahaad Alamoudi begins to answer these questions in her latest body of work, Heat Burns, addressing topics of hegemony, technology and power through the lens of the fast paced, societal changes. She witnesses society’s adaptation to these changes, questioning what is lost and gained through this process, observing how people navigate their way through transformation.
Central to the iconography of Heat Burns is the symbol of the iron and the colour yellow. Al Amoudi sees the iron as a tool for action, creating change through heat and pressure. The Pantone Yellow overwhelms the show, and is seen in the works in the room, the multiple yellow thobes, gym equipment and in the central video Makwah Man.
The central work in the show is a three-channel video Makwah Man. On an immersive projection a man is depicted endlessly ironing metres of pantone yellow cloth in his pantone yellow satin thobe on top of a dune in the middle of the desert, reciting paternalistic, positive aphorisms. The yellow thobes are repeated in another installation With the people, you blondie where 100 identical thobes are maneuvered by a machine in a seemingly endless loop.
The video can be viewed from The Outdoor Health Club, referencing the proliferation of exercise equipment in public spaces all over the Kingdom. The fitness machines become active viewing ‘seats’ and viewers must adjust their bodies and adapt their movements.
The iron is exactly that, a yellow iron, and it stands conspicuously on a pedestal, spotlit in a central point in the exhibition. At first sight, the iron is seemingly innocent, but as you approach, this reified object begins to to communicate with you. Other speaking objects in the show include the grumpy Falcons in the video installation What is this, skeptical and outrageous they interject and punctuate the space.
The various fitness machines, the singing iron and moving mechanic racks, offer disarming takes on how we have humanised technology, all the while being subjected to these technologies and becoming more machine like in our ways of thinking, responding and being.
The most important thing is today
This moment this moment this moment
This moment, see
This moment is what is important
This moment, Tomorrow is not important
But the thing is Tomorrow is coming
Tomorrow is coming and we don't know what to do
- from Makwah Man (2020)