[ISEA2015] Curators Statement: Samirah Alkassim & Laura U. Marks – INFORMATION ERUPTS INTO PERCEPTION

Artists Statement

Screenings and PerformanceCurated by Samirah Alkassim and Laura U. Marks

This program comprises two parts, a screening of short works and a live performance. These works identify patterns of information that lie below visible and audible thresholds and bring them into perception. Drawn largely but not entirely from the Arab world, the films, videos, video database (CAMP), and live cinema performance (VJ Um Amel) are all alert to seemingly random patterns that, when organized into information, can be rendered audiovisually. Moiré patterns, shadow puppets, analog video decay, surveillance technology, and other media collect and give shape to disavowed histories and the voices of the earth. In some cases these acts of translation permit a heightened political analysis. In others, they unfold histories, places, and events from dry data into the sensory responses of the viewer. Laila Shereen Sakr, aka VJ Um Amel, is known for her founding and ongoing work with the R-Shief project that uses social media extraction and data analysis of contemporary global struggles, people’s movements and national crises (using Egypt and the US as her targets) to study our communications over such crises as the recent war in Gaza and the Ferguson protest, and what they say about us. R-Shief issues a global call for participants to view, study, and use its unique and colossal archive – as a form of counter-surveillance. Shereen Sakr will talk about these ideas and more, preceding her performance.   Video: VJ Um Amel Retrospective

  • Samirah Alkassim & Laura U. Marks, curators. Samirah Alkassim is an independent documentary filmmaker and film educator with many years experience living and working in the MIddle East. She has over 12 years experience teaching film production and studies in Singapore, Cairo, Jordan, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Formerly head of the film program at the American University in Cairo. Some of her published articles include “Cracking the Monolith: Film and Video Art in Egypt” (New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, April 2004), and “Tracing an Archaeology of Experimental Video in Cairo” (Nebula, April 2006). deristea.com.  Laura U. Marks is a scholar, theorist, and programmer of independent and experimental media arts. She works on the media arts of the Arab world, intercultural perspectives on new media art, and philosophical approaches to materiality and information culture. Her most recent books are Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010) and Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image (MIT Press, 2015). She has curated programs of experimental media for festivals and art spaces worldwide. She teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
  • Shaina AnandAshok Sukumaran: CAMP
  • Ruth Jarman & Joe Gerhardt: Semiconductor
  • Laila Shereen Sakr (VJ Um Amel) is a digital media theorist and artist working in computational art, live cinema, data visualization, and media activism. She is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara, USA. Her work uses media analytics, visualization, and immersive storytelling techniques to map how participation in virtual worlds and networked publics have influenced the formation of a virtual body politic. This research led her to design the R-Shief media system for archiving and analyzing content from social networking sites, and the cyborg representation of VJ Um Amel. She published a software patent for “Automatically Generating Semantic Meaning from Social Media Content,” filed June 2013. And she serves as co-editor of After.Video open access video book. Shereen Sakr has shown in solo and group exhibitions and performances at galleries and museums across the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, and has published extensively. She holds an M.F.A. in Digital Arts and New Media from University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and a PhD in Media Arts + Practice from the University of Southern California. Recent reviews appear in The Wall Street Journal, Science, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Voice of America, The Monocle, Art Territories, Digital Media and Learning, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Jadaliyya, and The Creators Project.  vjumamel.com

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