interviewed by Predrag Pajdic, March 2007

Your latest work 'Mirage' is a series of photographs depicting a desert? What is 'Mirage' about?

As the title suggests, the work represents a naturally-occurring visual phenomenon which is not what it seems or appears and is left to Western interpretation and fantasy of the human mind. The somewhat oppressive vast landscapes could allude to either the Middle East or United States of America and, like a mirage, show images of things which are elsewhere.

, photograph, 2007
Courtesy of the artist

Anglo-Saxon and Arab worlds are often seen as extreme opposites. Mirage draws parallels between the Middle East and USA and uses landscape as a metaphor for similarities. Although aspects point to both places as oil based cultures and to having polarised political and religious views they also represent an everyday normalcy and routine. Despite the conflicts and the global media's depictions of horror, life goes on with people facing the same concerns, joys and struggles of everyday life.

The Middle East is usually depicted here in the West as an exotic oriental place or as an absolute opposite, the epicentre of conflict and terror. Nothing between. Why do you think that is?

Yes, it is represented as absolute opposites, although, the romanticized oriental depictions of the Middle East are readily being replaced with darker connotations of images of war, death and destruction that dominate the western media and mindset.

The in-between represents the normality of everyday human existence and people aren't interested in something that is similar to their everyday lives but rather the remarkable or newsworthy. People feel the need to project their own hopes and fears on others and that takes them away and outside of themselves. 

Our perception of time is marked by events that are not part of our habitual existence. Only those things that are remarkable (either good or bad) are remembered and absorbed. The media has to go to extreme lengths in our current society to be noticed and therefore events get polarised. Politicians want to strike fear into the hearts of citizens in order to keep them subdued and more easily led. Perhaps it's also because some people need bogey-men or saviours. 

The reality is much more subtle and nuanced, which requires much more explanation and thought and is often lost in the drama of events.

'Mirage' could also be seen as a fabulous dreamlike fantasy caused after a long exhausting journey. Do you think that there will be a time in a near future when people will not take any more of these artificial villainised representations of the Middle East and their people, as an answer? Or is that already happening? These days you don't depend only on your local media, there is the Internet and a possibility to find out many different points of view. What do you think?

I think this is already starting to happen. Both in the USA and the UK there is pressure on Bush and Blair, who are now more widely seen as having taken our countries into an ill advised and badly planned war in Iraq. The excuse was partly based on the supposed 'war on terror', which has been waged for a long time but has largely made the situation worse. Westerners have seen the horrifying effect on ordinary peoples lives living in certain areas of the Middle East coupled with the death and psychological effects on the soldiers there. Additionally it's been a dominant issue for so long that there has been more coverage of different sides so people get a richer view and understanding and are much more sophisticated at gauging emerging news stories. So now people are moving away from black and white views with more sympathy for other positions and seeing the adverse effects of this campaign. 

There is also recognition of the Middle East's role as a cradle of civilisation and invention and concern over the damage to our collective heritage, highlighting the fact that there are as many similarities as differences between cultures.

You also picked up on another aspect of 'Mirage', which is that parts of the Middle East such as Dubai are seen as luxury holiday destinations for many westerners with an almost theme park like unreality that rivals and is paralleled by places such as Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Disneyland. 

Perhaps the idea to look at the Middle East as one is an absolute and the biggest mirage of all. How can one look at such complex and versatile region as one? Don't we finally need to concentrate on individual rather than grouping the ungroupable?

Yes, absolutely. 

It's only through going deeper and attempting to break apart and understand what seems to be a single unity that different points of view, religions, ethnicity, politics and culture emerge. This process continues all the way down to the individual. 

Again, I'd like to highlight that the Middle East and the United States are similarly diverse at a regional, cultural, religious and political level and it is very easy to generalise about both regions in a way that isn't helpful when trying to move forward and discover that we are all human beings after all with the same follies, idealism, dreams, nightmares and preconceptions.