Monira Al Qadiri
Alien Technology, 2014

Public Sculpture
Location: Dubai, Shindagha Heritage Village

Before oil, and for a period of over 2000 years according to some accounts, the economy of the Gulf coastline was almost totally based on pearls. Pearl diving, pearl trading, pearl music: entire cultures were founded on this precious object. Following an extended exploration of Al Qadiri’s biographical relationship to oil, in terms of its materiality, symbolism, ecology and economy, as well as trying to find links between it and a pre-oil world in the Gulf region, she has come to find that a relationship between both industries exists in terms of colour. She discovered that the iridescent colour spectrum of pearls is the lighter version of the same colour spectrum found in crude oil. Although it is a fictional relationship, it is in her view one of the only points that links the two worlds together. In this project, she recreates these formal links through the shape of drill bits that are used to extract oil. When seen separately, these drill bits resemble forms of marine life, especially when coated with the aforementioned colour scheme. Pre-oil and postoil, oil and pearls, land and sea: these are merged together to create a harmonious existence based on the evolution of methods of wealth production. Here the work is a proposal for a public monument. A gigantic iridescent form alluding to both an underwater world that fed the Gulf’s economy for so many years and simultaneously, the tool that is central to the current economy of oil. The pearl industry is invisible to most - a forgotten history after the economic transformation that came with the discovery of oil in the region. And while the presence of oil is known and all-pervasive, the nature of its extraction is rarely seen. This drill is the basis of the wealth of the region, a central cog in the workings of the economy, finally made visible in Al Qadiri’s shimmering monument.