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Fariba Alam Biography

Fariba Salma Alam is a photographer and video artist of Bangladeshi descent, currently based in Brooklyn, New York, United States. Alam holds a Bachelor of Arts (1998) in Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, with a focus on post-colonial theory. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship (1998-1999) and holds a Master of Art in Studio Art (2004) from New York University. Her photographic, mixed media and installation works have been shown at the American Museum of Natural History, the Queens Museum, the Asia Society, Bose Pacia Modern, the International Center of Photography, Exit Art and other venues in New York. She has also volunteered her creative services to Sakhi for South Asian Women and the Acid Survivor’s Foundation in Bangladesh, and is a founding board member of South Asian Woman’s Creative Collective (SAWCC).

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Through her work she seeks to reimagine the boundaries imposed on the female body by rigid definitions of self, otherness and so-called “essentialist” mythologies. Interested in the fluidity between the intangible and real, otherness and self, her resulting works are strong, empowering statements that are simultaneously mystical and intimate. Large-scale photographic installations integrate multiple visual art mediums including tile works, painting, archival photographs and self-portraits, and engage a broad spectrum of the photographic tradition –black and white to digital, anthropological to personal. This mixing and layering of mediums and narrative threads gives history the immediacy of the present, and establishes the notion of identity as an undulating continuum.

Her works draw from numerous sources and a broad range of narratives, including religious and secular allegories with themes of migration, travel and fantasy. Incorporating mathematical/scientific diagrams, calligraphy, architectural blueprints, patterns in nature and reductive and minimalist techniques of repetition, Alam fabricates identities and spaces that combine collective spatial history, synchronous imagery and personal memory in a single frame. Fariba Alam engages notions of displacement and loss, self-fortitude and redemption, building her own iconography to assert a self-defined utopia.

“I’m also drawn to the dual mysticism and hard science of the idea that life unfolds in defined and continuous patterns. On the path to illumination, Sufi mystics move between these ever-changing spiritual states (or ahwal), experiencing a wide range of sensations—constraint and expansion, fear and hope, longing and intimacy. Repetition and symmetry become anchors in both my process and visual language, as does the notion of the body as territory or vessel in spiritual and erotic yearnings.  I explore Islamic and minimalist techniques of serial repetition to convey a site of transition that is all at once grounded, and yet propelled by a constant force of movement and flux.” – Fariba Alam

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