Multimedia artist Sama Alshaibi has always seen the female figure as the nexus of politics, history, climate and forced migration.her exhibition four series A selection of photographs from four separate works spanning 15 years of artistic exploration at Zane Bennett Gallery: carry over (2019), Sisera (2009-2017), between two rivers (2008-2009, 2016), and negative ace (2007-2010). Each series represents an aspect of her interrogation, using historical sources, context, and techniques to illuminate the definition and use of liberty.
Alshaibi has always featured herself as the main theme, showing how Western geopolitical forces, traditions and networks undermine individual freedoms, especially those of women in the Middle East. carry over Diverted the Western gaze from “Orientalist” photography in the Middle East and North Africa. Using late 19th and early 20th century meringue, gravure and gum printing processes, Alshaibi wears symbolic garments with objects – for example, in “Gamer” (2019) she wears a burqa, carrying a towering stack of The metal can of her head, which Iraqi women usually use to hold buffalo butter and bread.
Alshaibi’s portraits are shot in studio settings based on historical precedents such as Maison Bonfils and Francis Frith, who used new photographic techniques to catalog and codify European interest in the Middle East. Except that Alshaibi’s image finally condemned the codification. The exaggerated proportions of the props combined with the isolation of the characters accentuate traditional contrived forms. In “Water Bearer II” (2019), Alshaibi carries a large container that resembles a giant grenade or acorn. She seemed to possess extraordinary strength, holding the pale, bulky, and possibly useless object above her head, while wearing a white dress long enough to fold over her feet and prevent her from moving.The depicted effort never ends save [<- should this be safe ?] used to generate images.
self-portrait in between two rivers Use theater makeup to capture physical signs of physical trauma. “Obverse Discursive” (2016) shows a close-up of the artist’s face in a fitted hood, staring up and to the right, lips stitched with gold thread and bleeding where it seems to seep into the skin. In another photo, “Arabic and Cuneiform: Reading and Writing” (2016), a bruised and branded arm stretches out over a rumpled, luxurious red fabric, hands held up as if asking the camera for alms . The cuneiform writing on the arms is bloody, suggesting a traumatic dislocation of language and history, as if they had to be inscribed on the body for safekeeping.
In an accompanying artist statement, Alshaibi — who had to flee Iraq growing up — described how between two rivers as a response to the Iraq War. She argued that Western powers used the concept of women’s freedom to gain support for the invasion. The photos in this series specifically illustrate the detrimental effects of conflict on women.
The strongest works of the exhibition are from the seven-year multimedia project Sisera To this end, the artist loosely followed the path of the 14th-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta.Battuta traveled more than any other explorer in pre-modern history, and his book published accounts of this A gift for those who contemplate urban wonders and travel wondersalso known as LilaInspired by his path, Alshaibi focuses on water extremes, particularly diverse and regional populations facing ecological displacement.
The series links these communities, examining how high tides expected to engulf the Maldives or the Hawaiian Islands correlate with droughts in the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. Works on display in the series include dangling figures, often reflected in water and often associated with circles.
In “Tasma’ (Listen)” (2014), a man in a green burqa kneels with his hands on his knees, in the middle of a circle of stones in the middle of a retreating desert. The circular composition is repeated in other works, such as “Ma Ijtama’at Aydina ‘ala Qabdih Mu’attal (What Our Hands Joined Was Broken)” (2014), with two rows of identical figures facing each other with outstretched hands. The inner pair shakes hands, while the outer pair cannot bridge the distance through human contact. Clouds dot the blue sky overhead, reaffirming the kaleidoscopic quality. Throughout the series, the mirroring power of water causes the sky and the ground to collapse.
Each of Alshaibi’s series highlights how individual institutions, especially women’s in the Middle East and North Africa, are affected by geopolitical and economic forces that damage the environment. The causes of displacement are varied—war, climate change and capitalism, colonialism—but they all create a hostile environment that undermines the freedoms that each regime paradoxically claims to embrace.what’s so amazing about characters Sisera It’s the movement they still have, carrying and wearing billowing fabrics, poised in motion, in dialogue with the changing landscape.
four series On view at Zane Bennett Gallery (435S Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, NM) until April 16, 2022.
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