The Idealised City


InLoco Gallery

The World Islands, Dubai, UAE

Identity and landscape

“The Idealised City” is an interdisciplinary research project related to the study and artistic interpretation of the ubiquitous identities and landscapes that form in the post-globalist era. The exhibition’s title refers to the concept of the “Ideal city” by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), which posits the idea that cities should be designed with defined architecture for each population segment.

In this theoretical framework, people identifies themselves most strongly through their relationship with the landscape. In the contemporary world, as people move from place to place, architecture and remnants of history cease to play a key role in shaping the identity of people as they move through globalised frameworks, defined by softwares, datas and ubiquitous images.

If borders were once intended to be in between physical realms of the landscape, right now they tend to be drawn in between natural and digital ones.

Contemporary attitudes to urban environments refer often to the heritage of Bedouin traditions – specifically nomadism – which is characterised by the absence of a deep connection with permanent architecture, and is accustomed to constant movement, mutability, impermanence, and multiculturalism. This way of life is reminiscent of the ancient theory of the “Virtuous City” (al-Madinat al-Fadilah) by the Eastern thinker Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi (870-950), who turned to more fluid concepts of building cities that are not necessarily tied to the historical past but rather can adapt according to the times. Drawing inspiration from these ideas, the main visual language of the exhibition takes the form of universal renderings and stock images, which act as a symbol of constant transformation and movement towards the ideal and which, nevertheless, can be found in any international landscape – natural or digital. The Idealised City is about how similar identity became wherever we are. It questions authenticity, the boundaries between reality and fiction, the meaning of photography, and the function of images in the digital age. The exhibition consists of a large-scale outdoor installation, photographs, videos, paintings, and sculptural elements, combined to give the viewer an immersive gallery experience, expanding into a digital format through playful interactions within the Metaverse.

In a time when a big part of our perceptive experience is based on ubiquitous landscapes and digital environments, and where software-based planning dictates aesthetics while data harvesting draws trajectories, how can we embrace impermanence while preserving less tangible aspects of tradition, to allow a more elevated awareness of ourselves and an egalitarian relation with others?

We exist in an age where the majority of the world population lives in newly developed areas, also in those countries with a more consistent relation with identity through historical artefacts: small differences can be found between Chinese and American suburbias, Russian and Khaleeji new developments, European and Latin America commercial avenues or malls, not to talk about leisure facilities from the Mediterranean area all the way to South East Asia.

On the other hand, ancient city centres and historical heritage became open air theme parks for the fruition of cosmopolitans – the majority of the local population moved out long ago, rendering these areas a representation of themselves. This opens the window for considerations on what is the meaning of ‘authentic’ nowadays, and question the mechanics of collective identity.