Multidisciplinary artist Faisal Samra talks to Selections about his decision to revive his Distorted Reality show in Dubai

Distorted Reality, the name of your current solo show at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, sounds familiar…
Yes, it’s actually an older project that was first exhibited in 2007 and then travelled around the globe, where it received a great deal of exposure, especially between 2008 and 2009 in the US and across Europe. This time around, it’s been given a different setting in Dubai.

Give us some background on the project…
The central theme is distortion in all its guises, from political aspects to social strains. I first began working on the project 10 years ago and it’s still ongoing, I think because the subject remains so current. There are distortions everywhere around us. We’re all confronted with them in our daily lives. No one tells the whole truth; there is always something left unsaid, even between families and friends.

What approach did you decide to adopt when working on Distorted Reality?
I chose to use the same tools as the perpetrators of distortion, namely video, performance and photography, but then looked for ways of turning these tools against the distorters. I have always said that you should use the same weapons as your enemies when taking them on, but in a different way. In the work, I wanted to show a personage up in an attempt to distort reality, capturing the shift away from something real to something different. The idea is to create an awareness of what’s happening right in front of the viewer’s eyes.

And how did you bring the project to fruition?
The process I initially opted for was acting out a performance for video. This was followed by doing the same for a set of photographs. The performance is solely for the camera, with the images then digitally manipulated for the show.

The body of work is very large, with each performance containing a variety of elements. For example, one featuring plastic bags focuses on the theme of pollution, while the camouflaging or masking of the face to depict the way in which reality is being covered up is another. There are different layers to the works, wrapped around the core of the project. Each one has a different detail or element that opens the door to another facet. In the work looking at the subject of prayer and religion, for example, I explore the way in which personal faith can strangle someone, when extreme.

Why did you decide to make yourself the subject in most of the pieces?
I wanted to explore questions relating to identity in the project too, and this enabled me to do so.

How did you select the media you used?
As a mixed-media artist, I work project by project, with the themes of each one dictating the discipline and the tools I choose. It’s important that they match and that I feel I have the freedom to use any medium to serve a particular theme.

by Anastasia Nysten

Featured Image: Faisal Samra, Performance # 36, triptych from Distorted Reality series, 107 × 80.5 cm each, digital photography lambda print edition 10 + 01 AP 2007.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Letters from the past#43, pages 38-39.