Work Process

Contrary Life: A botanical garden devoted to trees
Artist Note

The site-specific installation, comprised of six enclaves, are named after a different urban environment where concentrations of these trees can be found: Sharjah (UAE), Guangzhou (China), Zhongshan (China), Industrial Shuwaikh (Kuwait), Za'abel (UAE) and Al- Ahmadi (Kuwait). These artificial light plants and trees are popular in cities across the Arabian Gulf, visible throughout public and residential settings. Although entirely foreign and imported from China, their purpose seems to restore a lost connection with nature and the landscapes obliterated by the development of new cities. The artificial variations include a range of palm trees, a mixture of cherry blossoms and impala lilies, weeping willows, shrubs and other invented hybrid species.

The project further aligns with landscape architect Anouk Vogel's vision to create botanical gardens in the outdoor courtyard spaces of the new Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai while simultaneously riffing on our human relationship to the natural world in the form of an artificial arboretum. A curated selection of artificial trees from a production factory in Zhongshan, China, were amassed and studied spatially and visually through various digital programs before on-site installation. Its year-long display made the temporal qualities of the trees apparent as they began deteriorating under the desert sun, exposing our inexplicable tendency to replace the real with the artificial.

References include the Glass Flower Gallery at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (USA), the Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury (UK), the Desert Botanical Garden at Inhotim in Mina Gerais (Brazil), and a book by Violet Dickson entitled The Wild Flowers of Kuwait and Bahrain.

All images presented were produced by the artist.

Alia Farid

Project Coordinator:
Lana Shamma, Albert Kolambel

Commissioned by:
Jameel Art Centre, Dubai, UAE

ⓒ Aseel AlYaqoub, 2022