Lantian Xie, Woodland Fern No. 4, 2014, paint, fluorescent tube light, ashtray, lighter, cigarette butts. Installation view, Grey Noise, Dubai, 2014–15. Photo: Musthafa Aboobacker.

DUBAI LOOMS LARGE in the world’s cultural imaginary: To many, it is the ultimate no-place, a site of extreme inauthenticity and soulless globalization, pure capital solidified into glass and steel. Swatting away those clichés is a favorite pastime of those who actually live here, who know that the city’s polyglot character—a staggering 83 percent of residents in Dubai are foreign—often forms the basis of new identities.

For the artist Lantian Xie, who was raised in Dubai by parents of Chinese heritage, the city’s heterogeneity is a rich source of material. In his installations, scripts, and drawings, he interrogates the fluid interplay between memory, citizenship, and sociality. Dubai has proven an ideal subject: “Growing up,” Xie says, “I was surrounded by images of either Arabs or Western expats. There were no other ways of picturing who lives here.” This is a problem

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