• Farah Salem

    Farah Salem

    Photography | Kuwait

  • Farah Salem

    Farah Salem

    Photography | Kuwait

About Farah Salem

Farah is a visual artist from Kuwait. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communications. Farah is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counselling program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In her studio practice, she works with various mediums including photography, video, performance, installation, projection/light and other mixed media materials. Working in both urban and natural landscapes, the artist uses these landscapes to engage in conversations with captured frames, performances, and installations. The artist had an early background in street photography and the processes of creative improvisation which have influenced her current conceptual and creative approach, where Farah is inspired by unexpected results. The main themes that she works with are socio-cultural topics influenced by intersectional feminism and social justice theories, and existential questioning inspired by theories of philosophies of Alan Watts and Sufism.

Through her artwork, she questions ways of erasing socio-cultural conditioning, by looking at societal gendered trauma, particularly rooted within her experience as an Arab woman, and debates ways of defeating silence and overcoming boundaries of a restricting culture. In a censored society, she uses her artwork as a platform to creatively expressing her concerns about gender roles and considers ways of reversing them. This is often reflected through the traditional Muslim-Arab garments that appear in her work, which serve as a gendered soft textile architectural structure and become an extension of the female body in relation to their contextual landscape. Other themes such as existential questioning appear in her work through exploring ways of being, conscious and mindful processes of making, and reflecting on the “I” in all of us. Farah attempts to capture the portals and space between two or more worlds. Her art making process engages personal memories while reflecting on present surroundings and involves others sharing similar stories.

 

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STUDIO VISIT

Q.

You are a multidisciplinary artist who works in various mediums. What draws you to photography in particular?

A.

My current multidisciplinary practice started and remains rooted within photography. To me, photography serves as a gateway into approaching any medium I end up utilizing to express a matter I am creatively grappling with. Whether I am using photographs as research material, an outline for a weaving, or a frame for a composition, photography is a creative gateway that resonates with me. Since a lot of my work explores reality perception, and questioning what influences the lenses we apply to whiteness an individual or shared reality. Questioning if these lenses are manipulated by socio-cultural conditioning, and the roles that access, agency and power play in the authority of perception. The medium makes me ask: Are images that we perceive reality, or is reality a distortion we weave?

Q.

Describe your work in 3 words and briefly share your creative process

A.

Embodied, Reorienting, Relational My process begins with a thread of inspiration, which draws me into researching the matter. My research phase is usually in two parts: a focused research on the matter I am working with per project, and ongoing research/readings that cover the overarching themes of my work. I then move into writing to narrow thoughts down. I pause and move into experimenting with materials. A phase of frequent periods of researching, processing, experimenting, and writing occurs, then once I know what I want, I go for it. Allowing the work to organically emerge, and loosen my grip is the hardest part. Eventually I return to a final writing session and adding final touches to the work.

Q.

Is this the first time you are delving into landscape photography? What made you go in this direction?

A.

There has always been hints and glances of landscape in my earlier works however I was unable to cultivate it as much as I’d liked. I think my circumstances growing up in the GCC and starting to get involved in photography education at age 17 did not allow for it. It seemed as if photographing remote landscapes was always seen as risky, as it involved adventure, and it could string along danger. I was told by individuals in my community that men could handle it better than women, that this was not for me. Instead I focused on street or studio photography which was more accessible to me at the time, and occasionally documented landscapes when I had the chance. However, over the past 5 years I have had the opportunity to make more regular trips to document landscapes. I am an adventurer at heart, and spending time in the wilderness and studying the landscape is a passion of mine, thus it naturally began making its way into my more recent artwork.

Q.

There is a marked absence of the human form in this series. Was that on purpose?

A.

I think “a body/form” remains present, despite the illusion that it may be absent. The work invites viewers to reorient their notions of what “a body/form” is in. In this work the raw desert landscape offers a loose structure to drape upon it the mind's illusions. Loose structures are the bones of the desert, manifesting as its rocks, hills, valleys, canyons and mountains. Fibers as well follow a structure of threads that are interwoven, to hold a flexible material, which like geology unfolds in a multiplicity of formations. When viewing the work, the definition of bodily motions with distinct expressions is projected on the rock formations.

Q.

In this series, do you feel that the glitches destroy the harmony of the natural rock formation or enhances it?

A.

For the purpose of this work, its neither destroying nor enhancing, it is interrupting the authority of our perception. Goes back to an overarching thematic question I ask in my work: Are images that we perceive reality, or is reality a distortion we weave?



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