‘Hurban Vortex’: Visual essay on mankind, urban space

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An exhibition titled ‘Hurban Vortex’ by acclaimed French photographer Boris Wilensky recently opened at La Galerie, Alliance Francaise in Dubai, in partnership with OKARYS Art Leads.

The ‘Hurban Vortex’ project won the 2016 Paris Artistes professional jury’s award. Before the Dubai show, the work was exhibited at Cannes for six months, and during the recent Cannes international film festival, it received much appreciation.

Wilensky is from Nantes and studied Urbanism before moving into photography. Describing himself as self-made, he says it is important to prioritize ‘play’ and ‘happiness’.

For the past 10 years, as a professional photographer, he has based himself in Paris. Photography for him is “universal” and says: ”It speaks to everyone. There is no need for translation.”

First emerging as a photographer of the hip-hop culture, Wilensky came to prominence with his famous portraits of performing artists such as Kool Shen, Oxmo Puccino, Kery James and IAM, among others.

Photographic diaries

Then in the next phase, so to say, his many travels led to him creating photographic diaries. The passion for urban life and people blended into his extraordinary photographic narrative, giving life to his unique artistic signature.

His trip to Asia inspired him to make a deeper reflection on the urban world that surrounds him. He was unconvinced by the megalopolis, the ‘global city’ that never stops, lost in a relentless drone of over-consumption, and compelled him to question our blind faith in the idea of ‘progress’.

Capturing dazzle and decadence, speed and collapse, the artist managed to reveal these paradoxes in the ‘Hurban Vortex’ series, organized into three sections: Origin, Collapse and Post.

The first section is a celebration of the colorful dynamic aspect of the present along with the interface between the human and the urban.

In the second section, people are absorbed into a digital existence, which is Wilensky’s foreboding anticipation of the future.

In the concluding part, is a message of hope, of finding one’s own humanity again.

‘Cities are just a décor’

“I don’t have to have a political message. We must not forget that the most important is the human being and the cities are just a décor. The city is very impersonal. Modernity along with globalization tend to make countries and cultures uniform.”

“To create the series ‘Hurban Vortex’, I traveled across Asia for six months. I first explored the biggest cities of Asia, focusing on ‘the urban’, to build an image gallery of architectural background. Then, I went to Cambodia and took many portraits, to get involved intensely with the human aspect. Once I came back to Paris, for nearly two years, I worked tirelessly on associating images in order to obtain the results seen in this series,” says Wilensky to Al Arabiya English.

He explains the technique he has used in ‘Hurban Vortex’: “In photography, double exposure is a technique in which the camera shutter is opened more than once to expose the film multiple times, usually to different images. The resulting image contains the subsequent image/s superimposed over the original. The technique is used as an artistic visual effect.”

Exploring Dubai

During his short stay in Dubai, Wilensky took time to explore the city a bit and says: “Dubai is a challenging destination for a photographer like me, driven by the links between the ‘Human’ and the ‘Urban’. This city made of architectural landmarks is almost a ‘borderline metropolis’ and is a source of strong and immediate visual inspiration. The futuristic dimension and verticality of the buildings contrast with the horizontality and austerity of the desert. The multiplicity of nationalities - therefore cultures - present on the same territory is also an asset.”

“An interesting way to investigate for a future project would be to create a ‘Dubai Vortex’ in order to reveal the encounter between Nature, Man, glass and steel. The double-exposure technique, on which my current work is based is a great tool for that. Taking a photograph involves capturing the reality but associating two images - with opposite meanings - allows us to go further and propose an interpretation that will induce a process of reflection. This is the concept behind my work.”

“To create a universe of contrasts based on universal themes while telling its own story, the challenge was huge but I am fully satisfied,” he says.

‘Hurban Vortex’ exhibition by Boris Wilensky is open at the Alliance Francaise, Oud Metha, Dubai, till September 15, 2017.