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Opinion – Jeddah 21,39: Everything started here

Metal Structure, Emy Kat (2015)

Jeddah is called the “bride of the sea”: an important historical landmark of the Hijaz region in terms of trade and commerce. It’s also the main entry point to the Holy City of Mecca for Muslims from around the globe. The city of Jeddah represents diversity: a complex and multidimensional city that continues to display passionate intensity.

At my arrival in the city I am fully invaded by the feelings of gladness, joy and excitement. Jeddah is my birthplace, and I have a very strong emotional tie with it.

Everything started here. My life—like any other human’s—is a journey. Starting with my curiosity and a love for photography at age 12, going through several domains that require creativity, from fashion, advertising, to finally settling into contemporary art practices in 2008. The latter of which I find very satisfying and gratifying: you are working with meaningful topics that are quite profound, which can make a positive difference in our lives.

Jeddah 21,39

Today Jeddah is hosting an important event. Jeddah 21,39: the numbers express the geographical coordinates of Jeddah. It is an honorable initiative of the Saudi Art Council to help raise awareness and educational levels locally. It promotes the exchange of cultural dialogue with the rest of the world using art as a global language.

The art installation I am presenting this year consists of seven photographic artworks combined from two different projects that intertwine, and intersect in a speculative enquiry.
Over recent decades, the Gulf has experienced great urban and economic development. My work considers whether careful observation of this reality provides us with the ideal future.

Crystals, Emy Kat (2015)
Crystals, Emy Kat (2015)

Annex of Khuzam Palace (2015)

Khuzam Place was built in the early 1930’s for the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz and was also the home for his son King Saud. The palace was where the first agreement to excavate for oil in the Kingdom was signed.

The project is a documentation of the abandonment of the Annexes of Khuzam where the wives of King Saud once lived. Three identical annexes joined by a central dome behind the main place.

THE VOID (2014- 2016)

The project expresses the “void” that was created due to the rapid development of a modern city. The “void” is a project that deals with landscape transformation as well as human ambition vs. nature. The project also touches on and reveals the development of a post-colonial “Neo- capitalist” structure and how it has affected natural and urban landscapes.

In a conceptual and a multilayered approach, THE VOID aims to give the viewer a different perspective in tracing the principal matter of its core development. It also explores and metaphorically reveals the challenges and the realities of its existence today. They go beyond its overwhelming facade and in contrast to its sheer strength and its fragile nature, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions and perhaps even draw their own narrative from the works.

Emy Kat
Researcher and photographer based in Paris, Kat is best known for his explorations of culture and heritage as well as landscape and spiritual transformations.