Friday, 5 August 2011

Warehouse visit & the school


Finally managed to see the two warehouses in the industrial area on Wednesday. All items salvaged from Phases 1-3 are stored here, along with H/H 15, a heritage house that was carefully removed from the site for conservation in its entirety. Amazing to see the quantity of material that has been collected and stored. The next stage will be to make an inventory, to archive the collection, and to make the items accessible for use in the school.

School chairs in storage while the building is converted.

The school should be ready for early September. Close to the development, this is an old school building that is being converted into an arts centre for the project. It will have a gallery space, painting studios, digital editing facilities, a photography studio, an education room, research facilities, and more...

We are planning workshops involving local community groups and artists to take place in the first week of October- watch this space!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Classification

Eighteen Found Objects

Khalifa and I met with an archaeologist yesterday, who drew to our attention a number of issues, including the following: how we are recording and collecting information/objects; what criteria we are employing in making decisions about what to keep and what to discard; how the objects will be stored; how the resulting collection will be ordered and classified, and to what end.

We also discussed how an object changes once it has been removed from the environment in which it was found and placed in a collection, for the object loses its immediate functionality and becomes an artefact. This change is evident in the photographs that record the objects in situ, in which the location or context suggests some wider sense of narrative.

Chinese toy gun, found outside building 2785

A professor from Qatar University was taking samples of concrete from the buildings on the site this morning. He observed that the abandoned buildings provide the raw material for many different operations: one group strips the wire from the buildings, another takes the metal and aluminium from the window frames, yet another salvages the copper piping, while my team sifts through and collects the personal possessions left by the former residents. He saw himself as conducting an autopsy on the buildings, a post-mortem examination on the structural integrity of concrete that has been exposed to dripping pipes, drying laundry, and poorly installed air-conditioning units, all of which cause cracks and decay over time. It is interesting that the derelict buildings and refuse provide such fertile hunting ground.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Group 'found objects' collecting session

On Wednesday afternoon we organised a group collecting session involving about thirty employees from Msheireb Properties and Time Qatar. Three of Khalifa's photography students were also able to attend to collect objects and document the event, and Green Line filmed the event. The session seemed a huge success, and great enthusiasm was shown by all despite the heat! An impromptu road-side exhibition was held at the end to display the items, and a prize given to Team 5 for the most interesting objects/best sales-talk explaining what they had gathered and why they should win!


A huge thank-you to everyone involved, especially the team of labourers who helped to carry and pack-up all the found objects.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

New work

Collage based on the design of a Fourteenth Century tile from the Museum of Islamic art, Doha. The collage was made using a letter found in building 9273 (see below). The letter had been sent from Bangladesh, and the envelope was postmarked 18 Sept '01. One of the workers confirmed that the writing was Bengali.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

View from the Mercure Hotel


View of the construction site from the Mercure Hotel. The buildings on the far left mark the area for the Phase 4 development.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Maneklal machine

The metal-cutting machine from Fakland Jewellery store has been salvaged after a lot of work. The owner had asked one of the men to remove it for 200QR, but refused to pay the 500QR that was then quoted to carry out the job, so had left it. With this in mind we decided to take it ourselves for the project.

The cogs and internal machinery were taken out in one day. To get the main casing out involved breaking walls, knocking out door frames, sliding the casing along scaffolding poles and then tipping it down a flight of stairs. It must weigh at least a ton. A red oil can was found behind the machine, and seems an interesting object in its own right.

We also managed to salvage a telegraph pole. As one of the men pointed out, the wood is not from Qatar, and it would be very interesting to try and date it. It could be from any time after 1950 presumably, which is when the oldest buildings here date from.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Found photographs

These photographs were collected in Mumtaz Studios, building 7450, but are typical of what might be found in any of the apartments in Musheireb. The team pointed out the nationalities, or the countries of origin, of the people in the photos as we sifted through the pictures, saying Kerala, Bengali, Pakistan, Nepali, United Emirates.

The newspaper is Nepali. It had been used to cover up an image of a man carrying a load on his back through the mountains, hastily drawn onto a wall with a blue marker pen. Above the drawing was written Nepal Airlines. Presumably the person who had made the drawing had been trying to conjure up an image of his home country, Nepal.

Locks are to be found everywhere. This one has 'Made in China' written across the front, adding to the cultural mix.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A makeshift house


We found an ingeniously constructed shed on the roof of building 86866 yesterday morning. It is made using a variety of found materials, including corrugated metal, wire, old wooden doors, a metal bed frame, a thin mattress, and timber, plywood, and chipboard. It was raised up on breeze-blocks and tiles, and sat next to a water tank. Khalifa suggested we keep it as an important record of how people lived their lives here.

I returned in the late afternoon to draw it so that once the shed was taken apart I would have some idea of how it should fit together again.


This morning the team took it apart. All the joints were carefully labelled and photographed, and the screws, nails and wire kept. In theory we should be able to reconstruct it close to how it was. A few possession of the owner were scattered about nearby, some passport photos and two pairs of dusty shoes, and a white shirt was still hanging from a nail inside the shed. A suitcase full of old Bollywood video cassettes was also found. One of the team observed that it was likely that the rooftop was used as a make-shift cinema, for a broken television and video machine were also close by.

Hoarding goes up

The biggest change has been brought about in the last two days with the installation of the hoarding to close off the area to public access. This photo was taken on Sunday, and the wall is now almost complete. Up until saturday, crowds of bachelors, a term used here to describe the migrant workers largely from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, would congregate on the streets, with the shopkeepers making last ditch attempts to sell their wares. For the last two evenings the streets have been virtually empty, save for a few opportunist looters.

Shopkeepers have also realised it is the end. The owner of 'Fakland Jewellery', who explained that he had been here for twenty-five years, has made several trips to salvage the last few items from his store with his brother. He has been forced to leave the expensive machinery that is used to make the bracelets and metal items as it is too heavy to move. Without an immediate alternative of another shop to move in to, and lacking the necessary equipment, one wonders what his future will be.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Found object example

Photograph found in a drawer in a hairdresser's shop,
possibly of the owner, building 2785 on Al Nakheel St.

Found object example


Exercise book found in backpack in building 712,
with a handmade cover made from a calendar.

Shaheen store

The team finally managed to salvage one of the last remaining neon signs in the area, more or less intact. The first attempt was with a ladder and screwdriver but the bulbs kept breaking, so a scaffolding tower was brought in the next day. The back panelling was taken down as well to keep the writing in tact. The American artist Richard Estes would love this, but it will be interesting to see how artists more local to Qatar incorporate such pieces into their work.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

About the project


‘Sadaa Thakerat al Makan’ is an artist-led initiative to record and collect a wide range of artefacts, stories and memories from Musheireb, Qatar’s earliest suburb (1951), as the area undergoes extensive regeneration.

The term ‘found objects’ has little meaning in Arab culture, with the nearest equivalent being ‘lost luggage’. ‘Sadaa’ translates as ‘echo’ or ‘voices’, with ‘Thakerat al Makan’ meaning ‘the memory of place’. The two phrases combined together roughly translate as ‘the echo memory project’.

The collection created from this ambitious salvage operation will be used as a resource for artists, architects, community groups, schools and families, so that the new development retains some trace of Musheireb's past.

My role is to assist in the collecting and recording of the found objects in the Phase 4 area before demolition, and have been given an initial three-week residency for this purpose by Msheireb Properties.