Empire of Your Dreams by Raja'a Khalid

I recently stumbled upon this gorgeous series of photos that called Empire of Your Dreams by Dubai based photographer Raja'a Khalid who took macro close-up photographs of a television screen as it plays a series of well-known Pakistani drama serials from the 1960s-80s. 

From Raja'a Khalid's artist statement:  

Known in their heyday for their exquisite Urdu dialogue, masterful casts and formal performances, Urdu drama serials were built upon a great literary tradition and formed an early part of the country’s popular culture. They were products of the country’s own creation, and conceptually bore little or no resemblance to the eclectic Bollywood films from its neighbor in the East. The Empire refers to the dual archaeology of time and space, which is represented in the binary nostalgic nature of these photographic stills.

The focus in the photographs is the facial close-up, which is the single definitive, identifying visual point of the Urdu drama serial. Due to tight budgets, sweeping landscape shots and architectural marvels were rare, visually the main attraction was the performer and so within them one will find fictitious yet intimate moments of hope and darkness.

Since no commission has ever taken place to have these old recordings digitally enhanced for our new generation LCD HD TVs, poor pixelated image resolutions mix with the television’s own super fine red, green and blue dots to give these photographs an unusually surreal appearance.

For Raja'a Khalid, who describes herself as a lifelong expatriate who has never lived in Pakistan, she says,

The serials instill a sense of reflective nostalgia, that which cherishes fragments of memories, or rather postmemories (inherited memories), temporalizes space and is embodied in the essence of movement and not destination. For any second or third generation member of the United Arab Emirates, expatriate, immigrant or perhaps even the severely disillusioned native, the images aim to evoke nostalgia through association, an intimacy with stories never heard and places never visited.

For my parents, however, like any of the first generation who grew up watching these shows on television the images appear to induce a sense of restorative nostalgia, that which is concerned with spatializing time in an attempt to reconstruct the emblems of home, a lost home or a country that once was. Between the two they create a three dimensional world (which may or may not have existed), a schism between a history of illusions and actuality. 

I guess I am drawn to this series because it combines cinema and photography. It does evoke a sense of nostalgia, of what I used to watch on TV as a child. Even if it's not the same series, it captures a time and place that was very different compared to the present. 

About the Artist:

Raja’a Khalid (b. 1984, Saudi Arabia), marks a departure from her usual documentary style for the series Empire of Your Dreams to show the duality of the nature of memory as a vital force that is both intimate and epic, constructed and inherited. A life-long expatriate, she was inspired by her parents’ collection of Pakistani TV drama VHS tapes and DVDs and the sense of nostalgia they evoked. She has participated in several grass-roots photography exhibitions in Dubai, including in her own curatorial effort for the The Third Line Gallery’s launch of the Project space in May 2010