Faisal Samra: The Slums Cry Out
Published Friday, June 29, 2012
Casablanca - Faisal Samra (b. 1956) draws inspiration for his work from the real world, which he renders meticulously into a private and parallel reality that, at times, leans towards exoticism.
This is how consumer symbols and shantytowns are fused together in his latest project, exhibited recently in Gallery HD in Casablanca.
In his project titled Shanty, the Saudi artist explores the impoverished slums and suburbs of Casablanca through a series of photographs, an installation, and a video presentation.
Samra, a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, crosses into the territory of the forgotten and the marginalized, carrying the symbols of consumerism and capitalism to them — confronting the two contrasting worlds to highlight the magnitude of the oppression and injustice on this planet.
In a series of diptychs, Samra contrasts two opposing worlds, by setting symbols of consumer society against a background of slums and shantytowns.
He uses brands and symbols of US imperialism, and juxtaposes them with the reality of the slums. It is as though Samra is holding the Global North responsible for this injustice.
The marginalized suburb is thus transformed into a place where the symbols of cultures from around the world are combined (e.g. Superman, Haifa Wehbe, Rolex, al-Qaeda leaders, etc.).
Samra captures this idea in a video presentation entitled “Shanty.” The video features five characters from the slums of Casablanca, who cry for help, only to be met with indifference.
The underlying message is that there is a communication breakdown between the worlds of the poor and the wealthy.
The project also features an installation presented in a special hall. Using various recyclable materials collected from the slums, Samra built a room from corrugated metal, with the video “Shanty” showing in its interior.
In both his graphical works and video presentations, Samra focuses on the spheres where people move and interact.
Samra employs various artistic forms and mediums to imprint his vision unto the subjects he tackles — including painting, digital photography, sculpture, and video presentation.
Samra’s works intelligently tackle the socio-political, cultural, and economic reality of our world - the turbulent political crisis of our time and the dominance of consumerism, a recurrent theme in Samra’s works.
We also sense that Faisal Samra is preoccupied with questions of identity – particularly so when he habitually hides the features of the faces presented in most of his works. What is an Arab now? What culture does he or she adopt?
The answers come in the form of symbols. It is precisely here that we find ourselves facing different levels of meaning and interpretation, enabled by the various mediums Samra uses and the juxtaposed images that give the viewer several perspectives on the same subject.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.