Christina/ July 26, 2010/ Culture

“Dubai Speed” as a allusion to the futuristic image of Dubai. Sure, that always works. Well-timed to meet the woes of the global financial crisis, the book “Dubai Speed” by Michael Schindhelm, former director of the Dubai Culture and Art Authority was published. An (almost) shellproof success on the book market – finally one enjoys reading bad news about a city that seems to have been on the fast lane only for a long time. But now it looked like even the gulf state doomed to success has been hit hard by financial problems, according to the book’s blurb: “The gulf metropolis was running to outcompete all other combatants and to
create a superlative in all respects. But than, the financial crisis came …

Finally the book, written as a diary, addresses the problem only on the last six pages (02.12-31.12.2008).

Unfortunatley, also the second part of the blurb does not live up to its promises: “The report on a bold society experiment and the longing for a new culture as a diary of an encounter of orient and occident full of misunderstandings and (self) knowledge.” The only word that might fit for the book in that phrase is “misunderstandings”. Reading the book, one never gets the feeling, that it is written about an encounter not to mention self-knowledge of the author! In fact, one receives the impression that established stereotypes
since easily marketable are wrapped up in interllectual wish-wash.

I would like to give an example for that: “There are people in this city who never mingle with Emiraties and thus cannot imagine what such a contact would look like.” This citation could also work as a self-knowledge statement of the author. Namely he gets in touch to locals but does not have contact to them. Because that would require that he would look into the arabian and his own culture. Something
that simply does not happen in the course of the book.

Another passage taken from the book gives a deep insight on how expacts act within a muslim society (which is their host country by the way): “The riddle who is behind that society (the sequence takes place during a dinner of the german-emirate society) remains unsolved. The Arabs are setting at one table close to the wall. The Westerners are sitting close to the window. No conversation is stirked up. On top
of that the atmoshphere is clouded because there is no alcohol available.”

The book hit it’s peak of arrogant, western affectation in colonial style with the description of the Jordanian capital Amman. It goes without saying that the “artist” has to spread his expertise on the city’s architecture which he describes as ruinous and faceless. Besides on the outbound flight he had read about a intended modernification of the city in the board magazine and comments on that as follows: “The question is who can afford that bullshit and who is going to pay for it?” However, the question should be why a publishing company releases such a crap of an apparently frustrated and self-righteous artistic director who got a bit long in the tooth?

And finally: Dubai’s financial woes should have been a challenge and not a hurdle for the late chief executive of the Berlin Opera Foundation. He eventually stepped on familiar ground after the left his post in Berlin due to (according to a Wikipedia biography) the tight budgetary situation of the federal state Berlin leaves too little money for cultural work of the foundation. Did that put Mr. Schindhelm out of the frying pan
into the fire? If so, would that not mean that he reaches the point of absurdity when he says that “the cultural engagement of Dubai is merely for the sake of the real estate areals without cultural eigenvalue”? At this point one would like to ask “Well, what do you really want then, Mr. Schindhelm, money or cultre?”

Related articles:
Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Niemand traute sich, die Wahrheit zu sagen”
Stern: “Warum Michael Schindhelm so gigantisch scheiterte”
Welt online: “Wie Michael Schindhelm in Dubai scheiterte”

The author:
Wikipedia: Michael Schindhelm
3sat: Michael Schindhelm

The Book:
Dubai Speed
Hamburger Abendblatt: “Michael Schindhelm, ein Europäer im Morgendland”

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