22 September 2016 - 8 January 2017
Mahmoud Obaidi’s installation Fair Skies engages in a debate around racial profiling in which discriminatory assumptions are made against individuals due to nationality and religion. On a more abstract level, the artwork also examines the physicality of contemporary art installation nowadays. Inspired by the artist’s own experiences with airport security, Fair Skies can be read as a social, political, and cultural critique of stereotypical assumptions. Described as ‘post 911 art’ by the artist, this artwork is the continuation of a prior project titled How Not To Look Like a Terrorist in the Eyes of an American Airport Authority (2010).
Configured as a commercial booth, Fair Skies is composed of vending machines, plastic figurines regrouped in miniature scenes and a video. A branded makeup kit contains hair dye, skin whitener and coloured contact lenses, all designed to create a physical transformation for its user. The four miniature scenes play out in the video, recreating Obaidi’s encounter with a security officer at the time he was singled out waiting to board a plane. The plastic figurines, which are modelled on the artist’s own appearance, raise the question of individuality within the masses. In this instance, Obaidi personifies a preconceived notion of the ’Other’, driven by underlying fears of the unknown.The beauty kit then becomes a response and an efficient tool for achieving uniformity . Moving around the artwork, the visitor is a witness to the artist’s own transformation in adopting a ‘guiltless’ appearance.
The sequence of these elements contextualise one individual’s experience out of many, humorously breaking down the simplicity with which stereotypical assumptions are formed of the ‘Other’, as international demographic shifts become more exaggerated. This performative installation is an abrasive and cathartic materialisation of a social reality, where humour is offered as the entry point for the audience. Investigating the modality of contemporary art production, Fair Skies exemplifies the versatility of a crossdisciplinary approach, connecting the artist’s creative process with science, technology and marketing. This reappropriation of practices and production transports us beyond the bounds of the art world and redefines our relationship to the work.