Public art commissioning is known to be a challenging procedure. It requires simultaneous cooperation from artists, curators, cultural actors, policy makers, contractors, engineers, craftsmen and laborers amongst many others. It could be defined as an invitation to an artist to confront his/her practice by creating a site-specific work questioning a determined context while introducing new givens that relate to the duration of the work and its exposure to multiple unbiased receptions and reactions. Ideally, commissions must also address the broader discursive practice and curatorial rhetoric around public art.
How to take up these challenges when “In its compulsion to urgently and conspicuously manifest itself, Dubai is challenging the notions of what a city is?” How to grapple with questions of contextualisation, site-specificity and permanence when the city is in a constant state of flux? Islands mushrooming, topography in mutation, re-rooted canals and altered vegetation are the few notes that helped shape this commission. “Shifting sands” has imposed itself as a thematic, referring both to the place and to the commissioning project itself, which witnessed some thought-provoking curves along the way. Three artists were selected to respond to a place of their choice amongst a list of possible locations.
By infiltrating existing spaces in a state of transformation, these site-specific works attempt to create a sense of duration, also in the conversations, invisible negotiations and political agitation they would have triggered. This pilot commission as part of A.I.R hopes to resonate the aesthetics and the integrity of public art beyond the specifics of Dubai especially that this field is developing rapidly in the region, but also at times instrumentalised.
 Brian Ackley ’Permanent Vacation’’ (2007) in With/ Without
edited by Shumon Basar, Antonia Carver and Markus Miessen. Published by Bidoun and Moutamarat.