© 2016 by Sobia Ahmad

Encounter(s)

Encounter(s) (Triptych), 2018

Videos, TV screens, two-way mirrors, aluminum, 20x12 in each

 

“The face is a source from which all meaning appears.”

“The face speaks to me and thereby invites me to a relation.”

“The face is present in its refusal to be contained.”

“The face presents itself, and demands justice.”

“The face is what forbids us to kill.”

 

- Excerpts from Totality and Infinity by Emmanual Levinas

 

Encounter(s) was conceived in a moment of experiencing equal parts beauty and bewilderment while contemplating on the concept of “self" and its relation to larger society. Sense of self is inexplicably tied to relation with others yet, as the 20th-centurty philosopher Emmanual Levinas writes, the “other” is infinite and cannot be captured conceptually or seen only through one’s own idea of self. An encounter with the other through the face opens a possibility of an ethical relationship. The face in not a physical or aesthetic object; it is the most exposed, most vulnerable, and most expressive aspect of the other’s undeniable presence. The face forces the egotistical “I” to reevaluate the concept of his or her self-centered freedom and submit to justice. 

 

Through this work, I ask: What are individual biases as well as social, cultural and political ideologies that have in the past, and continue to, violently deny justice to this other in the name of personal and national freedoms? Using technology, which invariably complicates our understanding of self and other, I invite the audience to reflect on who is considered “other" in the American landscape while also referencing the role of digital media in both perpetuating divides and facilitating ethical encounters.