Wrestling, by Polly Tootal, is from her ongoing series The Hands That Built This City, which documents the daily lives of the men who live in the UAE’s labour camps, in all its banality and complexity. The labourers, brought in to prop up Dubai’s infrastructural aspirations are often enticed with false promises of prosperity, only to end up earning meagre wages and living in crowded accommodations with no proper plumbing.
With their passports seized and family visits forbidden the plight of the workers documented in The Hands That Built This City is rendered invisible in the name of globalisation and capitalism.
Born out of a sense of a shared struggle, the men become extremely protective of one another, finding comfort in their newly formed friendships. However, this is neither a romantic tale of resilience nor a tale of dystopian inevitability.
The artist’s decision to use artificial lighting to prop up natural daylight drives the aesthetic approach of the series, turning the real into unreal, the banal into the bizarre.
As a single female voice in a sea of uprooted men, the artist forces us to question what a world without women and children might look like. What sort of relationships emerge in such circumstances? Whilst the artist does not answer these questions directly, her images bring into focus how a complex system of modern slavery affects the big issues of today: gender, culture, race and migration.
(This print qualifies for free shipping in the UK and Europe.)