Saudi Automobile



Saudi Automobile

by Sarah Abu Abdallah
Performance art, video art

View a still from the artwork

Strewn across the bays of an unremarkable car park is the beaten-up carcass of a vehicle. It appears to have been abandoned, until a woman emerges. She picks up a brush and begins to paint the shell with long, gentle strokes in saccharine pink. This act of ownership, along with the stereotypically feminine colour chosen, seems to be a knowing nod to the only nation in the world that prohibits women from driving.

The composition of the short film is simple, shot by a single camera positioned on a tripod. We observe as the artist circles the vehicle, periodically stepping back to admire her handiwork. As she sets down her brush, she signals not only that her work is done here, but also that it has been a futile act. Independence remains out of reach. In a final act of resignation, she pointedly climbs into the passenger seat.

Words by Katherine Fieldgate

A woman approaches a battered, defunct car, its front wheels missing. Armed with a pot of paint, she begins to smear the vehicle in gloss. The automobile, traditionally a symbol of modernity, is here presented as an old, worn-out wreck. It is immovable, placed in ironic contrast to its typical connotations of movement. The sticky veneer alters the appearance of the car, but in the absence of deeper, more meaningful change.

The woman applies the paint freely, without concern for protecting her clothes from stray specks. At times, she flings the liquid at the vehicle casually. At others, she slaps the brush onto the car roof. We may question how seriously she is taking her task, or may interpret this behaviour as a small act of rebellion. Growing weary, realising that the stationary car is no closer to budging, the artist slumps against it, gaining nothing but a stain.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

More to discover

You can watch an excerpt from the artwork on Sarah Abu Abdallah's Vimeo account here. Abdullah Al-Mutairi has interviewed the artist for Ibraaz. Articles on Saudi contemporary art include those by Catherine Milner for The Telegraph, David Batty for The Guardian, Ahmed Al Omran and Margherita Stancati for The Wall Street Journal, and Joseph Lloyd for The Culture Trip.

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Are artists always driven by personal experience?
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Yes. Artists look at the world through their own experience, through their own eyes – and rightly so.

– Angela de la Cruz, Turner Prize-nominated visual artist (via The Brief →)

Is anything ever not clouded by personal experience?

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