New media art exhibition at USM showcases works by Sama Alshaibi and Joseph Farbrook

GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine Art Department and Gallery will present the artwork of Sama Alshaibi and Joseph Farbrook this fall in “Opposing Gestures,” an interactive exploration of political, existential, and personal dilemmas demonstrated through individual human gesture and motion.

“Opposing Gestures” portrays Alshaibi and Farbrook’s shared view that politics are a macrocosm of individual motion and that the expression of one person can be symbolic of society. While political components ebb and flow throughout the theme of the exhibition, it also takes on broader subjects and existential questions, all depicted through individual human expression, and often integrating the viewer into the experience.

The exhibition will include displays, some of them interactive, at the Art Gallery, Gorham campus, and AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, Portland campus.

The exhibit will be on view from Sept. 23-Dec. 10, 2014, noon–4 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday at the Art Gallery, USM Gorham campus, 37 College Ave.; and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday at the AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, USM Portland campus, 35 Bedford St., Portland. Admission to each gallery is free. For more information, visit www.usm.maine.edu/gallery or call 207-780-5008.

There will be an opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Art Gallery, Gorham campus. Farbrook will present an Artist Talk at 5:30 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public.

The AREA Gallery will host the 2003 Farbrook/Alshaibi collaboration, “Diatribes,” an interactive digital artwork, which utilizes a four-channel television screen to address the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The screen displays simultaneous interviews between Farbrook and Alshaibi in 2003 as they grapple with the eminent invasion.

Farbrook was born and raised in the U.S. and is of German and Jewish descent. Alshaibi is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Iraq and is of Iraqi and Palestinian descent. As the interviews stream, two separate channels feature mainstream media broadcasts and protest demonstrations during the build-up of the war. The viewer uses headphones and a remote control to continuously choose the audio track, creating a live mix of the four points of view.

A decade later, Alshaibi and Farbrook will revisit their original collaboration by presenting a sequel to “Diatribes” at the AREA Gallery. An assemblage of video on four, old-style tube televisions, it features new interviews with the artists responding to the work that they have created since their initial collaboration. Discussing visual, symbolic and technical devices of each other’s projects, the artists thread meaning through the social and political context in which each has been creating artwork over the last decade.

Several USM courses and student groups will engage with the AREA Gallery exhibition through a Response Wall, where they will post written and artistic responses to Alshaibi’s and Farbrook’s work.

The Art Gallery, Gorham campus, will feature a collection of the artists’ recent works, including time-based sculptures, photography, rotoscoped animations and interactive video projections.

One room in the Art Gallery will be dedicated to Farbrook’s interactive video, “Human Nature,” in which the viewer uses a video game controller to navigate a digital world comprised of seemingly endless video selfies with references to sprawling skyscrapers and the domestication of nature.

“As a species, we are entirely enamored with ourselves, each other, our creations, our situations, and our uniquely human experience,” said Farbrook in his artist statement. “The concrete city/stages that we have built in which to act out our lives are no longer surrounded by nature, but are surrounding nature. It is perhaps this reason that we have been unable to address our continual weakening of the natural environment that supports our existence.”

Each artist will hold a public presentation to complement the exhibition. Farbrook will lead a Brown Bag Lunch Discussion at noon on Friday, Oct.10, in Burnham Lounge, Robie-Andrews Hall, Gorham campus.

Farbrook will begin with visual examples and then will then lead a discussion focusing on the question: Can digital art have the same emotional impact and historical significance as masterworks in painting, drawing and sculpture?

Alshaibi’s presentation will be announced at a later time. Both presentations are free and open to the public.

For more information about the USM Art Gallery, go to http://usm.maine.edu/gallery.


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