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With the benefit of hindsight, what role does new media play in artistic practices, activism, and as an agent for social change in the Middle East and North Africa today?

Sama Alshaibi
2 November 2012

vs. The Ruler was made during the first year of the Arab uprising. It is comprised of two custom-made wooden 'electrocution' chairs (thrones) sitting in opposition to each other. The patriarchal male throne suggests the military and religion. Its counterpart is also suggestive of Islamic architecture, but is grounded by the human spine. Embedded with audio-scapes, the chairs invite audiences to sit and listen to the other's 'trial'. The male throne weaves excerpts of various public speeches from the region's threatened dictators, which are enunciated by a single voice. In turn, the female counterpoint reverberates with the feeds from my own social media community – status updates compiled from Twitter, Facebook and blog posts. The multiple voices assembled from the dictators and online community is compressed into the singular voice of one female and one male and can only be listened to by one audience member at a time, evoking the paradox of this age of digital media and networking, in which the global, disparate and intertwined voices of so many are in the end still filtered and understood through the narrow, singular mind of one person at the receiving end of it all.

Sama Alshaibi

Sama Alshaibi is an artist whose multi-media artworks disinters negotiations in spaces of conflict: the causation and aftermath of war and exile, the clashes between nation and citizenry, the vexatious dynamics of humans competing for land, resources and power, and finally, one's own internal struggle with mental entrapment through self-policing emotions such as fear. Although she frequently uses her own body, Alshaibi is rarely representing herself directly. The body situates itself in allegorical contexts, trapped in time and space. The body juxtaposed with symbol, backdrop and gesture, constructs contexts of her physicality. The body as evolving metaphor. The body as site. The absence of her body in her artwork is still the context of the body absent.

Alshaibi has had over ten international solo exhibitions and her artworks are widely exhibited in prominent international biennials, film festivals, museums/institutions, galleries and fairs, including the 55th Venice Biennial, VIII Tashkent Biennale of Contemporary Art (2016), 2014 FotoFest International Biennial (Houston), Honolulu Biennial 2014 (Hawaii), MoMA (NYC), Edge of Arabia (London), Arab World Institute (Paris), Headlands Center for the Arts (San Francisco), The Bronx Museum (NYC), Paris Photo (Paris) and Museum of Contemporary Art (Denver). Aperture Foundation published her first monograph, Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In – it was released in March of 2015 in conjunction with her solo exhibition with Ayyam Gallery in London. Recent and upcoming solo exhibitions include Sama Alshaibi: Silsila at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Arizona, USA, 2016) and at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University (NY, USA, 2017), Collapse at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai (2015) and vs. Him at Lawrie Shabibi Gallery in Dubai (2012). Her art residencies include Darat al Funun (Amman), A.M. Qattan Foundation (Ramallah) and Lightwork (NY). Alshaibi was awarded two national teaching awards and granted the title of 'University of Arizona's 1885 Distinguished Scholar'. She has been awarded the 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholars Fellowship to the West Bank, Palestine. She is currently Chair and Full Professor of Photography and Video Art, University of Arizona, where she has taught since 2006. Alshaibi is exclusively represented by Ayyam Gallery.

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What is a platform?

A platform is a space for speaking in public. It is an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts. It also suggests the formal declaration of a stance or position on any given subject.

Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.