Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

1-2021

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M.F.A.

Department

Fine Arts

Degree Program

Studio Art and Design, MFA

Committee Chair

Carothers, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Singel, Rachel

Committee Member

Singel, Rachel

Committee Member

Peteet, Julie

Author's Keywords

Colonial photography; North African postcards; colonialism; colonial gaze; lensless photography; museum

Abstract

Shifting Sands is a re-exploration of the presentation of North Africans in colonial postcards, an examination of identity, and a critique of the modern Western museum. Since the inception of photography, colonizers used this medium- especially in the form of postcards- to categorize and exoticize Eastern peoples in order to more easily subjugate them. Shifting Sands is a series of reconstructed colonial postcards which challenges colonial-era stereotypes of North African peoples. The colonial gaze, represented by the camera lens, is subverted through a lensless image-making process in which sand is used to remove the subject from the colonial gaze and create a new visual experience. In manipulating old postcards dated between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Shifting Sands challenges viewers to unsee what they are conditioned to see. This series is a visual experiment of an Eastern photographer trying to portray his culture without reinforcing colonial perspectives and exotic stereotypes. Shifting Sands stands to challenge deeply rooted stereotypes rather than reinforce them or profit from perpetuating them. The show is multi-disciplinary and takes the form of an interactive outreach, visitors are encouraged to participate in the artist’s image-making process in a performative way. This work re-envisages the experience of the Western museums today in order to demonstrate the relationship between art, artifacts and commodities and also brings attention to how colonial objectification of North Africans continues in the form of the modern-day museums.

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