USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland

New Media Art Exhibition at USM Showcases Works by Sama Alshaibi and Joseph Farbrook

GORHAM, Maine – The University of Southern Maine (USM) Art Department and Galleries will present an exhibition and two complementary public events this fall. The artwork of Sama Alshaibi and Joseph Farbrook will be featured 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 details of the exhibition are: 
Opposing Gestures, September 23-December 10, 2014
Art Gallery, USM Gorham campus (37 College Ave., Gorham): Noon–4 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday
AREA Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, USM Portland campus (35 Bedford St., Portland): 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Friday 
Admission to each gallery is free. 

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition, 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.

Farbrook will lead a Brown Bag Lunch Discussion at 12 p.m., Friday, Oct.10 in Burnham Lounge, Robie-Andrews Hall, Gorham campus. The artist 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? The discussion 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 imminent 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. As the four videos stream simultaneously, the audio continually switches from one channel to the next, creating a mix of the four points of view.

During the summer of 2014, Alshaibi and Farbrook created Diatribes, a decade later, which will debut 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. 

The USM community and other gallery viewers are invited to engage with the Diatribes and Diatribes, a decade later exhibits through a Community Response Wall, designed to foster a safe space for community reflection and dialogue. Written and visual responses to Alshaibi’s and Farbrook’s work will be displayed in the AREA Gallery and online at Caitlin Puchalski, gallery intern and senior art major concentrating in digital art and painting, will develop and maintain the AREA Gallery wall as well as the online version.

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.”   

Farbrook is an Associate Professor of Interactive Media and Game Development at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, and exhibits internationally. Farbrook’s work includes video, sculpture, virtual art installations, digital imagery, Internet/transmission-based work and the use of video-game technology as a medium for fine art. 

Alshaibi is an Associate Professor of Photography and Video Art at the University of Arizona, Tucson and exhibits internationally. Alshaibi’s work includes performance, photography, video, multi-media, installations and sculpture. She focuses primarily on the cyclic nature of conflict, war and exile, and the body’s relationship to power. The dynamics of human competition for resources, land, and control are performed through her own body at actual sites of discord.