After the first Gulf War in 1991, countless oil fields in Kuwait were set ablaze during the retreat of invading forces as a final act of defiance. Those months following the war were nothing short of the classic image of a biblical apocalypse: the earth belching fire and the black scorched sky felt like a portrait of hell as it should be, an almost romanticized vision of the end of the world. Having experienced this dystopian reality first hand, the artist felt the need to examine it as a landscape from memory that reasserts its relevance today.
Amateur VHS video footage of the oil fires is juxtaposed with audio monologues from Islamic television programs of the same period. At the time, the tools used to represent religion – specifically Islam – were mainly geared towards visualizing god through natural miracles. Trees, waterfalls, mountains, animals and insect life were the visual staple of religious media, and the narration was not that of the Koran, but of beautiful Arabic poetry recited by a skilled orator with a deep voice. This holistic image of religion has been replaced by more socio-political interpretations of scripture, so the images of dying nature also effectively represent the death of nature within religion. Its subsequent mutation into new extreme imaginaries parallels the transforming portrait of “the end of the world.”
Commissioned by Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon (2013)
Concept, direction and editing: Monira Al Qadiri; Filmography: Adil Al Yousifi (1991); Sound: Kuwait Television archives; Sound design: Fadi Tabbal