Sama Alshaibi is a half Iraqi-half Palestinian artist and filmmaker who uses photography, video and performance to evoke the language of suffering, displacement and loss. Her auto-ethnographic approach is informed by her own history of living in war, the double negation to her familial homelands and her countless encounters with those policing borders from the undesired. Her work is an articulation of these negotiations between body, disputed land(scapes), and shifting political realities. An Assistant Professor of Photography/Video at the University of Arizona, Alshaibi received her M.F.A. in Photography & Video and Media Arts at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Alshaibi widely exhibits and screens internationally, with recent and upcoming exhibitions at Paris Photo, Art Dubai, the International Incheon Women Artists' Biennale in South Korea, and solo exhibitions in The West Bank and London. She was recently accepted into the prestigious Light Work artist-residency program for 2010, where she will create collaborative multi-media works under the title "Baghdadi Mem/Wars". Her wide ranging time-based works include experimental and narrative shorts, documentaries, and live video-re-mixing. She is represented in the U.A.E. by the Empty Quarter, Dubai and in Europe by Selma Feriani Gallery, London. www.samaalshaibi.com
NEGATIVE'S CAPABLE HANDS
Keats' theory of "negative capability" was expressed in his letter to George and Thomas Keats dated Sunday, 28 December 1817:
"....several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."
Keats believed that great people have the ability to accept that not everything can be resolved.
Negative's Capable Hands depicts visual representations of increased focus on the physicality's of dislocation, destruction and death. The subjects are presented anonymously and without a context: abstracted body parts, contested resources (such as land and water), as well as concrete definitions of bullets, flags, and territorial lines. These elements are captured intimately and directly but only betray fixed understandings of who is right and who is wrong. My reaction comes from my daily dose of experiencing the war in my homeland of Iraq from my home in the USA, the cacophony of images, headlines, statistics, blog feeds, petitions and spin.
The images are often sketches of my own questions and struggles. For example, if bodies are anonymous and abstracted, and their nationality cannot be discovered, or if the noise of what experts tells us to think about this war finally silences, would we react to the discarded body in the same way? I'm not simply thinking about dead bodies either, but also fighting bodies. Do we secretly write blank checks to violence and aggression, or rationalize death when they serve our own agenda and purpose?
This project extracts essential elements out from under the noise; it places importance on the unreliability of certain truth, affirming the role of the question. Uncertainty is favored over the assurances of political posturing, hate and apathy.