Visual expression: time-lapse video art

Audiovisual artist Beno Saradzic’s enchanting video, Beyond – Memoirs In A Time Lapse, highlights Dubai’s magnificent development in recent times. Vision asks the artist just why time-lapse art can be such a powerful form of expression

As the film reaches its dramatic denouement, milky white clouds scud across the screen, engulfing a futuristic city’s skyline. It looks, for all the world, like a scene from a 22nd-century science-fiction blockbuster. But on closer inspection, individual buildings become strangely familiar. This is the United Arab Emirates of 2014, and Beno Saradzic’s short film is a striking documentary of the development of the modern Dubai. “I do remember coming to Dubai and thinking, ‘this reminds me of The Fifth Element, or Blade RunnerStar Wars, even’,” he smiles.

Shot entirely using time-lapse photography - the technique in which time appears to be moving in fast-forward - Beyond: Memoirs In A Time Lapse, has been viewed over 360,000 times since Saradzic made it available on in April, and has attracted column inches across the world. But the real success of the film is the coherent narrative created from over 250,000 disparate frames of Dubai and Abu Dhabi collected by Saradzic over the years.

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“I’ve been an architectural illustrator for 18 years, so I’ve seen the whole transformation of Dubai - and been a part of it. I’ve witnessed over 500 building projects in my time here,” he explains. “So I had a lot of material - it was like an enormous jigsaw puzzle - but what I didn’t want to do was present a sequence of visual postcards in no particular order. I wanted to tell the story of Dubai.”

So Beyond: Memoirs In A Time Lapse has three distinct chapters: materials and goods are shipped in, trucks come and go, buildings are constructed. Then we see people whizzing about malls, shopping or driving the streets. Finally, we’re above the city, detached from its industry.

“That third sequence is meant to reflect on where Dubai might go next,” says Saradzic. “I stood on a roof, seeing the fog roll in and this incredible movie-set style vista, and thought ‘what have we created?’ Is it just a place to live and work, or does it mean something bigger than that?”

Such reflection has lent the film a contemplative, artistic air which makes it much more than a promotional video. It helps, too, that Saradzic commissioned an impressive soundtrack from his award-winning composer friend Vladimir Persan, but the hits really began to roll in when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai tweeted his appreciation.

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Saradzic believes time lapse makes the 'everyday' interesting

“That was it then,” jokes Saradzic. “I had an avalanche of interest. And I think people like it because of the time lapse technique. It’s a powerful form of expression because it takes you out of the mundane, and explores a dimension you’re not accustomed to seeing. There’s fascinating stuff all around us, every moment of our lives, but it happens too slowly for us to notice.

“Going to work and getting stuck in traffic might be boring and repetitive, but seen with time lapse it’s intriguing. Clouds are beautiful, sure, but with time lapse they’re an incredible, dynamic painting that unfolds in front of your eyes.”

Which is just about the best way to sum up Beyond - a vision of the everyday, rendered sublime.