Disclosed by Farah Salem is an ongoing performance photography traveling project which started in Kuwait in 2016. Throughout Farah’s travels, she has made connections and invited individuals from the MENA region who have shared their stories which intersect with hers, along with the documented landscapes, and culture-specific symbols painted on the ‘abaya garments. The ‘abaya in these works is a traditional garment from Kuwait which has been influenced by socio-cultural constructs, traditions, and religious practices over time. The purpose of this garment is complex, yet rooted within sacred privacy. In this series, the ‘abaya garment stretches the lengths and boundaries of the public and private spaces of the body which holds one’s narrative. The ‘abaya serves as a communication tool to uncover hidden narratives.
I am an artist, activist, and art therapist from Kuwait, currently based in Chicago. My studio practice is rooted in photography and expands into video, performance, fibers, light/projection, and installation. Working in both urban and natural landscapes, I use these settings to engage in conversations with captured frames, performances, and installations. Through this conversational element, I attempt to capture the portals and spaces between two or more worlds. I question the potential erasure of socio-cultural conditioning, focusing on the gendered nature of trauma as it is embedded within my experiences as an Arab woman. My art making process engages personal memories, reflecting on present circumstances, and the stories of collaborating participants who have had similar experiences. I incorporate various cultural symbols to explore the politics of seeing and the roles of access, agency and power in the displacement of identity as a material. Engaging in a material exploration I investigate the distortion of reality, weaving and constructing distortions, and questioning the authority of perception.
My studio and art therapy practices are bridged by social activism. In both realms, I focus on community building, accessibility of mental health services, and raising awareness about domestic and gender-based violence. In my art therapy practice, I employ an intersectional feminist and social justice lens, a trauma-informed approach, and a relational-cultural framework. I incorporate mindfulness, other mind-body techniques, and creative elements to facilitate a safe holding space for processing experiences. In turn, my art therapy practice enables me to dive deeper into material explorations within my art making and develop a better understanding of raw human emotions evoked by socio-cultural constructs.