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Desert X AlUla 2024 has closed. This installation is no longer on view.

Desert X AlUla 2024 has closed. This installation is no longer on view.

Filwa Nazer

Preserving Shadows


Inspired by a pre-Islamic belief amongst Bedouins – that spirits inhabit certain shrubs and ancient sites – Filwa Nazer explores the ideas of hostility and fear in relation to the nature of the desert. There is a story which tells of an incident where two men set fire to a bush causing two Jinn to escape in the form of snakes, which then killed them. Such stories instilled in people beliefs in bad omen and the existence of Jinn in Madai’n Salih near AlUla.
Nazer responds to the idea of the supernatural and the awe of the unknown with an installation that mimics the wavy, abstract shape of a black snake with spiky triangles of transparent steel mesh layered one after another, reflecting on how humans create monsters with their anxieties and anguish. The juxtaposition of different types of black steel mesh creates an eerie play of shadows next to the undulating structure. The serpent – historically a powerful symbol of rebirth, transformation, immortality and healing – represents the incarnation of nature in its mysterious, devouring, and hostile guise.
The shadowy journey of walking the narrow path and reaching the head of this monstrous structure, is a metaphor for the transformative energy of the serpent as it sheds its skin. Once the visitor reaches the ascending edge, the darkness fades and he is faced with the vastness of the desert and mountains.
A recurring theme in Nazer’s work in recent years examines transformation as a vulnerable process, often imbued with resistance and tension. With Preserving Shadows, she revisits this theme, probing it in the desert environment of AlUla. The work, which takes on a large-scale architectural form, stands in contrast to Nazer’s more intimate and delicate works, yet the hollow body evokes the transparency and energy of these softer works.