"On Language, Technology, and Power: Jennifer Chan in Conversation With [UT Austin alum] Hiba Ali"

Featuring a conversation between Jennifer Chan and alum Hiba Ali (MFA in Studio Art, 2018)

"Male, Ameer Said, 15. Female, Shafiq Mohammed Salef Mohammed, 2." In front of a studio backdrop, a young brown woman acts as a news anchor, reciting the names of children murdered by U.S. drone strikes. When I first saw this powerful segment from artist Hiba Ali’s "Postcolonial Language," (2013) a 20-minute "newshour” reel, I was struck by their processing of theory as acknowledgement and action for injustice in the world.

What distinguishes Ali’s work from the familiar analyses of language, technology and power is its insistence on non-anglocentric ways of seeing existing systems. The new media artist, educator, DJ and experimental musician does this by rooting their performance and digital art as a practice of queer, Muslim, Black, and brown people’s liberatory politics. Through open-source workshops, reading lists, video and performance, they ask us to reconsider the role of technology and the politics of migration within our lives in connection to whomever came before. 

Ali and I recently reconnected — we met six years ago while teaching sessionally at SAIC in Chicago, and stayed in touch — to discuss the motivations around absurd performance, making artwork about work, and the difficulties people of colour face with openly discussing specific privileges and oppressions.

Full interview edited and condensed for clarity.

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