This is the story of a bridge and a village. In 1982 torrential rain beat down on a valley in the Tihama region, in south-western Saudi Arabia, soon threatening to flood the villages. The inhabitants decided to take refuge on a recently built bridge, trusting in the solidity of its construction. They put their faith in concrete. So, they stored their vehicles and food there and they waited. And the flood came and swept away the bridge and the villagers.
This tragic story was the starting point for Abdulnasser Gharem’s The Path project. In August 2007 the artist went out to the still ruined bridge. Working with a team of assistants, he sprayed the broken structure with the Arab word “Al Siraat,” which means “the path” or “the way,” repeating this inscription several thousand times over the fissured surface, and recording their performance on a video. The photograph of this ruined structure at the end of the operation presents it as a new site-specific installation. The project is a reminder of the people who died as a result of tying their fate to that of a concrete bridge in which they trusted. In this work the artist expresses a certain relation to the world and to technology, questioning the very foundations of our choices, and the way in which our value systems have put feats of construction before even religious belief.
Translated by Charles Penwarden