Surrounded by desert, the city-dweller feels small and exposed. There is an uneasiness at such immensity, and intensity, of nature. The desert resists perspectival representation — until it is penetrated by that icon of ‘progress’, the Highway. It arrives pre-packaged with its own vanishing point and sculpturally minimalist aesthetic, inscribing the sandy void with the familiar markings of civilisation: dotted white lines, roadsigns, streetlights and roundabouts.
With these symbols we attempt to tame the desert, to insist on perspective, to prove we are bigger than its expanse. A desert highway need not have cars; it has just to offer potential: to lead us, in our vehicular isolation, to civilisation at high speed, from even the furthest reaches of nature. Which is precisely what makes a highway that runs out so disturbing. What happened, we ask? What does it mean? Do we turn around and go back? Or do we motor onwards? And so off with bravado we head toward the horizon, confident in our technology, yet secretly fearful of being swallowed by the sands.
The symbolism of desertification hangs heavily over our species as our addiction to fossil fuels slowly cooks the planet. Our car culture leaves its mark on the world not just by upwards manipulation of the global temperature, but in these asphalt and concrete monuments to excess that it leaves behind.
Camel Roundabout (2012) Part of the Roads to Nowhere exhibition.
Single-channel High Definition video.
Stereo audio. 16:9 screen ratio.
Dur:. 8’18”. © Adam Sébire.