Visual Cultures Forum: Exhibition: ‘On The Road: Poetics Of The American Highway’

The School of Architecture, Art and Design at AUD held the Visual Cultures Forum exhibition ‘On the Road: Poetics of the American Highway’. The opening night took place at the School’s Rotunda Gallery hosting Serge Brouillet, from Prestige Motorcycle Tours, who rode his Harley Davidson into the exhibition, where it was on display for the evening. During the event, Prof. David Poindexter, Chair of the Visual Communication Department at AUD, talked about his project ‘Photographing Route 66’ and Dr. Jim Clements, Assistant Professor of English, sang songs with highway themes, as well as AUD students, led by guitarist and singer Jamil Jabbour, continued to perform blues music for the remainder of the evening. Dr. Woodman Taylor, Associate Professor of Art History and Convener of the AUD Visual Cultures Forum, commented: “We were very pleased to see how the exhibition not only highlighted the incredible talent of the Department of Visual Communication’s photographers, both faculty and students, but how faculty as well as students from other schools throughout the campus came for the event, with Dr. Jim Clements performing for us. We like to actively cultivate such interdisciplinary dialogue.”

Car culture is probably the most pervasive American cultural form, affecting multiple aspects of modernity. As swaths of concrete crossing countrysides, then slicing through cities, the American highway facilitated this culture of cars, as well as mediated the experience of viewing the world while 'on the road.' In photographs, film, popular literature and music, the American highway also became a metaphor for modern life - where individuals are independent and free to travel at will.

Multiple projects explore the highway from different perspectives. In an archeology of tarmac, signage and highway architecture, Prof. Poindexter photographed what remains of Route 66, the earliest and most romanticized American highway, which connected Chicago to Los Angeles. In addition, Prof. Julia Townsend, Associate Professor of Visual Communication, updated this with a visual narrative of highway snapshots while crisscrossing the United States during the summer of 2013.

The evening included AUD senior students Magda Jentgen's photographs and Fay Rodriques’s video capturing Dubai bikers as they enact an ‘on the road’ aesthetics while riding their Harley Davidson motorcycles on Sheikh Zayed Road. Both Jetshri Bhadviya, an AUD graduate in Photography, and Kaveh Kashani framed Dubai as the city alive through the hyper highway Sheikh Zayed Road. Finally, through 'Cycling the City', Dr. Taylor took a subaltern turn, interrogating this car culture from the perspective of an Indian worker's bicycle.

By creating a space for presenting art, architecture, design and media, the AUD Visual Cultures Forum fosters interactive discussions on visual arts amongst students and faculty at AUD as well as with the dynamic arts community to build relationships with major figures in the thriving art scene in Dubai and the U.A.E.