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Dittmar exhibit examines war, surveillance and the individual

Sabba Elahi’s ‘Drone Stories’ runs Jan. 11 - Feb. 12, 2018

“Everyday suspects #2” by Sabba Elahi is on view at Dittmar Gallery’s “Drone Stories” exhibit Jan. 11 to Feb. 12 at Northwestern University.
“Everyday suspects #2” by Sabba Elahi is on view at Dittmar Gallery’s “Drone Stories” exhibit Jan. 11 to Feb. 12 at Northwestern University.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The intimacy of embroidery and individual privacy collide with unmanned technological warfare in the fibers of artist Sabba Elahi’s work.

“Drone Stories,” a display of Elahi’s embroidery and text, will be exhibited Jan. 11 - Feb. 12, 2018 at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery, located at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus.

“Drone Stories” depicts aerial and peripheral targets of domestic and civil spaces, suggestive of the drones and crosshairs that loom above society domestically and at sites of war and conflict. The project asks viewers to consider the relationship between the technology of the state and the private lives of individuals.

The artist utilizes hand and machine embroidery and text to critique the domestic “war on terror” and the targeting of American Muslims, which began long before the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Her “everyday suspects” series questions the decade-long drone offensive in Pakistan, a program touted for its technological accuracy, which has resulted in an estimated 424 to 957 civilian deaths and a total casualty count of 2,500 to 4,100 people.

Elahi defines surveillance as a physical distance from the object of one’s gaze, a way of seeing without recognizing. “To this degree, distanced surveillance means a lack of awareness of the way in which black, brown and Muslim bodies are being seen, and this can be a matter of life and death,” Elahi said.

Elahi grew up in a traditional Pakistani household in the Midwest, experiencing the rupture between her upbringing in a collectivist and modest culture and a climate of growing islamophobia. She works with themes of war, trauma, memory and loss, and renegotiates history and current cultural representations and conflicts. Her imagery is often based on direct observation of a figure or an environment, which she then obscures and reimagines in a new context.

Elahi is currently a resident artist in the Chicago Artist Coalition's Field/Work Program. She recently exhibited work at Woman Made Gallery and was a 2013-14 resident artist in Chicago Artist Coalition’s Bolt Program. Additionally, she works at Marwen, providing academic support, professional development and portfolio development to young Chicago artists.  Elahi received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

An opening reception with artist Elahi will be held Thursday, Jan. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Dittmar Gallery. Admission is free and open to the public.

Dittmar Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays, except when a new exhibition is being mounted.

For more information, visit the Dittmar website, call the Dittmar Gallery at 847-491-2348 or email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu.

Dittmar Gallery is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theatre, dance and visual arts.

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