GARDEN OF DELIGHT
BY NICK HANNES
Nick Hannes (1974, Antwerp) travelled to Dubai five times between 2016 and 2018 in order to put his reservations and prejudices about the city to the test. It quickly became clear that Dubai represented the extreme form of the topics that he had been tackling for years. The city was a case study in breakneck, market-driven urbanisation; the ultimate playground for globalisation and capitalism without limits or ethics; or, to put it another way, Dubai was an out-of-control entertainment hall, meticulously designed to serve unbridled consumerism.
Hannes’ photographs function as a razor-sharp knife that uses humour and irony to slice through this metropolis of the future. What remains, in the words of the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, is a “Generic City”, without history, personality or identity; a city that is “indifferent to its inhabitants”. To Hannes, it is a place where “human activities are reduced to their economic value”.
The Netherlandish painter Hieronymous Bosch painted his iconic triptych Garden of Earthly Delights over 500 years ago. The central panel depicts a false paradise, right before the Fall. It is a dystopian image to which Hannes – from his outsider position – likes to refer. He reveals Dubai as a Theatrum Mundi, at times with dismay, at others with dumbfoundedness, but always with a desire to understand. Is a model like Dubai economically and socially sustainable – or are we still, 500 years after Bosch, living in the same ill-omened theatre of the world?
Nick Hannes (b. 1974, Antwerp) studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent, after which he started working as a photojournalist. Since 2006, however, he has devoted himself entirely to his personal artistic practice. His work is documentary and socially critical, and has a strong socio-political slant. Using humour, irony and visual metaphors, he focuses on the problematic relationship between man and his environment.
Nick published 3 books: ‘Red Journey’ (Lannoo 2009) deals with the transitional phase in post-communist society. ‘Mediterranean. ‘The Continuity of Man’ (Hannibal 2014) focuses on various contemporary issues such as mass-tourism, urbanization, migration and crises of various kinds in the Mediterranean region. ‘Garden of Delight’ (Hannibal/André Frère Editions, 2018) showcases Dubai as the ultimate playground of globalization and capitalism, and raises questions about authenticity and sustainability.
‘Garden of Delight’, was awarded the Magnum Photography Award in 2017 and the Zeiss Photograohy Award in 2018.
Nick exhibited at FotoMuseum Antwerp, Fotofestiwal Lodz, Organ Vida Zagreb, Stadtische Galerie Iserlohn, Centro Andaluz de la Fotografia Almeria, Triennial of Photography Hamburg, Photomed (Beirut), FotoIstanbul among others.
Since 2008 he teaches documentary photography at KASK/The School of Arts in Ghent (B).
Hannes is represented by Panos Pictures in London.