To possess other eyes
The taxi that took me from Sharjah to Dubai stood still at a traffic light. Next to us, I noticed a bus transporting Pakistani workers from a construction site to their barrack-like lodgings on the outskirts of the city. One of them, an older man with kind eyes, smiled at me. I smiled back, triggering for me the game I played as a child where I imagined I could enter the heads of passers-by to experience life as they did.
I travelled with this Pakistani man to the small room he shares with five others. Laundry hanging from the bunks, a whirring fan that does little to relieve the stifling heat, and a photo of his wife and two daughters back in Punjab stuck to the cracked mirror he uses to shave every morning.
Proust said that the only true voyage would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the hundreds of universes that each of them sees.
But imagining the world of this worker is not the same as possessing his eyes. However hard I try to part with my preconceptions, my imagination is informed by all my previous experiences, by what I have seen directly or on a screen. These images are the building materials of my fantasy.
I may never be able to imagine something I have not, in some sense, already experienced.
The awe of discovering the unknown is the most exhilarating experience I can have. That is why I get so excited when I see the videos of the artists we work with.
A young Thai woman floats under the sea’s surface, the ribbons of her white dress swirling while small marigolds slowly descend onto her. An unmanned boat mysteriously catches fire and floats on the Mekong River like a giant torch. A lone truck drives through an empty Georgian landscape at dusk. A Turkish police man caresses his hand gun with gentle strokes as if it were his lover. A girl with cropped hair leans casually against a yellow cab in a Los Angeles parking lot while the orange and green neon sign of a convenience store flickers into the night.
The most wonderful thing is that I can share my excitement about these new images with the audiences of the different art institutions we collaborate with all over the world.
For the duration of the video, we can all pretend we possess other eyes, even though we know better.