Artist Statement while the Earth Burns

I want to interact with the real and the unreal, a cinema of the seen and unseen. I try and conjure up spirits from the dirt illuminated by the camera, reflexive and instinctive. The story of my practice is that I am living inside the film and the film is living. I want to be free from the imposed linearity of time in this realm, and fracture it within the structure of film, free from the body but made with the body.

Sit in the Silence
Vertical Time Zone
Liminal is the Night
Phone Call from the Past
Phone Call from the Future

This Has Already Happened

I was confined to my house; a pandemic took over the world and climate fires raged outside. Something inside of me also surfaced. The outside was trying to come inside. The real of the world, the real of my fears, this tension manifested, and an existential horror film emerged. As performer and director, I tried to open something up, and I asked for the ghosts to reveal themselves; I wanted to allow them entry, even if it was a trace. The impulse to create and document was powerful. 

The seed of this idea emerged one night when I frightened myself through a reflection in my home. It sparked this idea for a film, a tiny virus had erupted, and this invisible terror was lurking outside, and with it surfaced the ills and the greed of America. But for a moment, there was a reflective silence. Who are we now? Eventually, the mass shootings resumed, and our collective hallucinations and nightmares were now live streaming. It was full-circle, I could feel the war from my childhood reverberate in me.

There is a real threat out there, and at first, I thought it was something supernatural or a creature behind my dark windows. It was also in the blood red sky of the constant fires, it was in the angry voices arguing for my death, and it was in the fear and longing in the eyes of my fellow citizens.

I was asked once if my work was a hybrid between documentary and fiction, and this question used to be an easy one, of course it is. But I was reluctant to explain how or why, so I denied this to my work, I said it wasn’t. But I’ve been entangling these modes of fiction and non-fiction since I first picked up a camera and started shooting. My intention is to let go of those reductive constructs with my next feature-film: This Has Already Happened, a fictional expression of a truthful event. 

The film is treated holistically but shot chaotically. I wanted to create a disrupted space, and then enter this other zone, like time as sculpture, and the screen traveling through it.

These past few years have brought new pleasures in making cinema. I slowed it all down. Reality and existence are still baffling, at times unbearable, but also tranquil if I give in to a particular frequency without sinking. It’s not supernatural, it is just natural. There is a profound feeling in the dark tones of the melancholic skies, and in those moments when pinned in that stillness, I am reminded of my own mortality, and a place where there is no middle, beginning or end.

Usama Alshaibi, 2023

Forced Artist Statement (from 2012)