City of Signs/Signs of City

Samantha Wehbi

About the Artist

Samantha Wehbi is Professor, School of Social Work, and Graduate Program Director, Documentary Media MFA as well as Creative Development Lead at the Office of Social Innovation, at Ryerson University. Her research and practice interests have focused on international issues and grassroots community activism and organizing in Canada and abroad including Lebanon, her country of origin. Her creative practice relies on photography to explore our relationship to the communities we inhabit. Her work has explored the complexities of urban landscapes and issues of displacement, postcolonialism, translocality and social change. Her scholarship explores interdisciplinary intersections of art, community practice, and pedagogy. She has taught and published on topics related to these fields of interests.

About the Works

This photography-based video project presents fictitious cityscapes stitched from images taken in Lebanon and Canada evoking a fluidity of contexts through images and sounds that intertwine with one another. The images presented in the video are composed of photographs stitched to create hybrid cityscapes that at once attempt to break with traditional documentary forms of representation, while also presenting the viewer with insights into hybrid subjectivity. As an Arab living in Canada, the artist’s work is informed by translocal ideas about the interconnections of “here” and “there”; as well as the concept of “disjunction” which questions and challenges the search for unity, and seeks to create a multi-layered narrative of dissociation.

The strategy of creating photographic disjunction is coherent with the formal and conceptual aspects of the work, as the artist deconstructs familiar spaces of assumed cultural authenticity and reconstructs a personal and political architecture that reflects hybrid translocalities. Viewers are invited to explore the realities that the connections between contexts create through themes such as poverty, war and commodification. On the personal level, the creation of fluid cityscapes is a reflection of the artist’s thoughts, feelings and experiences in Canada and Lebanon as being intertwined and mutually co-creating.

The work seeks to connect with viewers whose experiences have activated translocal subjectivities that exist at the disjunction of here and there. For other viewers, the work seeks to destabilize a presumed sense of distinctness and separation of geographic context, as they grapple with the uncertainty of the locations in the work.

Toronto Metropolitan Department of  Architectural Science Toronto, CA.
Ryerson Department of  Architectural Science Toronto, CA.