Doha-based duo Christto & Andrew flaunt their bold new imaginings in Dubai


A pink-uniformed maid towers over Dubai’s East Wing gallery, looking a little lost and confused. She’s a twenty-foot-tall photo frieze, welcoming you to a fanciful world. To her right is a much smaller photo: red talons resting on a rock that sits on top of books about the Bedouin. Fake flowers flame in Don’t Worry This Is Not Real. Disruption continues, raucously, as you take in Christto & Andrew’s brave show Parataxic Distortion. This is work flirting with the insider/outsider boundaries, where everything is unexpected.

Christto Sanz and Andrew Weir are aliens living in Qatar, and their imaginings of an alternate Gulf are playful and humorous. They formed a partnership almost five years ago, and have also worked in film and mixed media. The title Parataxic Distortion describes how twisted conclusions can be drawn based on fantasy, and it’s the subversion of cliché that this pair thrive on. Second guess this region at your peril. Artifice and nature sit together in a time where maids become their mistresses, or cyborgs, or were they even maids to begin with? Isn’t that the gardener?

Over there is a huge eagle foregrounding a dewy pink and blue desert. It’s stuffed. Here’s a row of subcontinental workmen, tarry from their day yet online and illuminated by a pistachio backdrop. Hamour is a greedy fish who ate too many pearls — or maybe he’s like a productive oyster. One stern-looking lady is serving up eyeball soup — but why is she wearing an eyepatch? Mystery and symbolism abound.

The show plays with the juxtaposition of content, colour and presentation to create a memorable narrative that’s impossible to pin down. Christto & Andrew created the campaign images for this year’s Unseen Photo Fair & Festival in Amsterdam, a clear-cut endorsement of their style of interrogation.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Urban Art Issue #37, on pages 16-17.