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 Ms. Elahi’s embroidery and text, will be exhibited Jan. 11 – Feb. 12 at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery, located at Norris University Center.
“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.
Ms. 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,” she said.
Ms. 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.
Ms. Elahi is currently a resident artist in the Chicago Artist Coalition’s Field/Work Program. She also works at Marwen, providing academic support, professional development and portfolio development to young Chicago artists.
An opening reception with Ms. Elahi will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 11 in the Dittmar Gallery.
Admission is free and open to the public.
Dittmar Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, except when a new exhibition is being mounted.