“My work is all about structures and impermanence – how things disappear, change or blend into different forms,” says Syrian-born, UAE-based architect Talin Hazbar. The name of her latest project, Transient: A Brief Stay, reflects this interest. The result of two years of research and a collaboration with the French ceramics maker Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, it’s a project that goes on display this week in the form of an installation at the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.
It comprises a 3m-high column and a series of smaller objects ranging between 16cm and 30cm in height. Fragments of porcelain are suspended in sand, offering an exploration of the relationship between the two materials. “As viewers approach the piece, they find it deteriorating and coming down, but as you come closer on the lower plaza you see it building up and coming together,” she says. “It is a reflection on how things needs to be excavated and start deteriorating [for you] to discover more.”
For Hazbar, however, this display was never a predetermined outcome, but rather a manifestation of a period of open-ended research. “I find it interesting for the process to lead you to a final product,” she says. “Through experimentation, the outcome starts to form and become defined.”
Work was conducted in two locations. In the UAE, Hazbar immersed herself in three recently activated archaeological sites, and gathered sand – a material that is “constantly shifting and is considered nomadic by its nature, as it moves and never settle”. Here, she conducted initial research, with a few questions in mind – do we consider what is found at an archeological dig frozen in time? Does time die at that specific moment or extend beyond it to take different forms? “The fragility versus the permanence of these archeological sites through time always made me curious to understand the processes of presentation and restoration.”
In Sèvres, a renowned centre for ceramics, she took this research further and experimented with different techniques of working with porcelain – throwing, sculpting, firing – while introducing sand into the process at different stages, to achieve different effects. “In my practice, it’s important to be aware of the process and try to understand the outcome but what I find fascinating is creating constraints, where the outcome [is not controlled].”
As a whole, the project is a meditation on how materials capture, sustain and transform culture and its artefacts. “Throughout history, ceramics, and porcelain in particular, have been used as a medium of preservation,” she says. “Sand by its very nature tries to encapsulate and preserve what is in its folds and layers in different forms. As much as it embraces, it deteriorates, and that’s what I wanted to highlight – the attachment and the preservation of these two materials and how they exist at once.”