DUBAI EXPO 2020, WHERE THE WORLD MEETS THE WORLD
By VINCENT GARNIER
Photos by IGOR PLINER
Like many events originally scheduled in 2020, the world exposition in Dubai actuallytook place a year later between October 2021and March 2022.
You can trust the emirate for being a perfect host for such an event. The cosmopolitan city of Dubai is an international hub for business, logistic, finance and tourism. It excels in enabling connections between Europe, America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. It is also a place where the most impressive buildings, artificial islands, commercial malls, golf courses are mushrooming from the sand of the desert. We were not surprised by the ability of developers to build the impressive infrastucture necessary to host the world expo and its more than 200 pavilions.
Dubai World expo looks like a large theme park, very well organized, a sort of beauty contest between exhibiting nations, all lined up to seduce visitors. Several countries invested heavily in spectacular architecture, impressive audiovisual experiences with the objective to impress their audience. To some extent the richer the country, the most impressive the pavilion. The “wow effect” matters, from this point of view you should not miss the pavilion of Saudi Arabia for instance, but there are multiple ways to connect with visitors and make a lasting impression.
Size does not always matter, some smaller participants manage to create a fantastic experience for their visitors by having well trained and motivated staff, welcoming their guests and engaging with them to share information about their country and their culture. The pavilion of El Salvador is a good example. Others were having live shows, like Thailand, particularly entertaining and inspiring.
Visiting the pavilion of Ukraine was a very emotional experience. It is difficult to know what it was originally designed for as the war has turned every wall of the building into a manifesto for peace and in support for Ukrainian people. Thousands of messages, written in hundred of languages, have been posted on these walls, capturing the emotion and solidarity from the world. The most impressive building will never be as strong as the united voices of thousands and thousands of people crying their outrage and solidarity.
Many pavilions include restaurants, so visiting Dubai World expo is also a culinary journey. Interestingly a majority of visitors seemed to be quite conservative and it was striking to see that many were opting for a restaurant close to their culture of origin. But we could see some adventurous ones. I noticed the long queue in front of the Belgium counter serving waffles and French fries, a testimony of how universal these specialties of my country of residence have become.
It is difficult to reference all pavilions, and if one is curious and open minded, every country is an opportunity to learn. One of my regrets though is that the exhibition in somepavilions seemed to be too much driven by the commercial agendas of their sponsors, moving between exhibition rooms felt like flipping the pages of a magazine full of advertisements.
If you wanted to visit 20 or 30 countries and only had 3 days, Dubai world expo was definitely the place to fly to. Let’s hope it encourages all visitors to learn more and take the time to keep on discovering new countries, people ad cultures.
Igor Pliner started out working in real estate and antiques in Brussels. His interest in art and aesthetics has always been at the center of his various works. In 2014, he began to collaborate as a freelance writer with various magazines. He photographs portraits and then decides to deepen his technique with a two-year training in photography. TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY His passion as well as the search for strong experiences have led him abroad: The World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, COP 23 in Bonn, street photography in Los Angeles, the official tripof the Belgian-Russian chamber of commerce to Siberia, Expo 2020 in Dubai and even the 106th Tour de France. ARTIST’S STUDIO During this time, Igor searched for a way to combine his initial love of the arts with his passion for creating images. This is how his project “Artist’s studio” was born. The idea is to capture the moment when art is created. He has worked with artists such as Jean-Luc Moerman, Gert & Uwe Tobias, Jacques Weemaels, Benjamin Spark, Denis de Gloire, Arne Quinze and Stefano Guiliani. NEWS Igor’s interest in current affairs led him to take a different kind of photography. He has covered events such as Black Live’s Matter, the undocumented movement or the Covid-19 crisis. His photos have been published in Het Laatste News, Brussels Times, Bruzz, De Morgen, BX1.