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UAL Research Online

Theatres of the real

Dobai, Sarah (2009) Theatres of the real. [Show/Exhibition]

Type of Research: Show/Exhibition
Creators: Dobai, Sarah

Group exhibition.

Theatres of the Real presented photography from eight British-based artists whose works extend and redefine a tradition of British documentary photography. Straddling the boundaries between fact and fiction, the works in the exhibition created a hallucinatory and critically engaged vision of contemporary Britain. This exhibition and publication explored the relation between documentary and studio based approaches to photography in dialogue with the major exhibition Street and Studio at Tate Modern (2009).

Other Contributors:
ExhibitorElgar, Annabel
ExhibitorHunter, Tom
ExhibitorShaffran, Nigel
ExhibitorTabrizian, Mitra
ExhibitorStrand, Clare
ExhibitorPickering, Sarah
ExhibitorTreacy, Danny
Additional Information (Publicly available):


Sarah Dobai works with photography, film and video, she has exhibited widely in the UK, Europe and America. Recent exhibitions include On the Nature of Things, Kamloops Art Gallery, Canada (2011), A Fire Is Set in His Masters House, Chapter Arts, Cardiff (2011), Theatres of the Real, Antwerp FotoMuseum (2009), Darkside 2, Winterthur FotoMusuem (2009), Studio/ Location Photographs, Works| Projects (2009), Sarah Dobai; Photographs and a Film, Galerie Zurcher, Paris (2008), Dispari Dispari, Reggio Emilia (2008) Innocence and Experience, Gimpel Fils, London (2007) and Sarah Dobai, Artists’ Space, New York (2003). In 2006 Kettles Yard, Cambridge presented a major solo show of selected photographs and a specially commissioned two screen video projection ‘Model 280’.

In the mid 1990‘s Sarah Dobai completed an MFA at the University of British Columbia after Canada after which she established her practice with a consciousness of international debates around photography and the moving image. From 2004-2006 she was awarded a Residency at Delfina Studio Trust, London and in 2008 she was made a Visual Arts Laurete by the Centre International des Recollets, Paris. Her work is featured in Charlotte Cotton's ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’ Thames & Hudson, and in the second edition of Michel Poivert’s’ ‘La Photographie Contemporaine’, Flammarion Presse 2010. She lives and works in London.


My work with photography, video and film combines studio-based and on location approaches to reflect on the everyday and its relationship with the media of photography and film. Whilst my work with the still and moving image have been wide-ranging, the work has seen the development of prevailing themes and methodologies predicated around the dynamics of space, place and the human subject as understood through our own intimate experience and through the images of collective experiences represented on TV, in the cinema and in literature. Recent research has led to the production of a number of film and video works, Short Story Piece, Model 280 and Nettlecombe which are distinctive for the way that they both engage in and actively defy the conventions of mainstream illusionistic and narrative cinema.

The recent series Studio/ Location Photographs focusses on the image of the shopping mall and how its concern with commodity and consumption effects the way the space functions and how people behave there. The series juxtaposes photographs of un-peopled sites shot in malls, with images of actor/models taken in the studio. In the studio the models are pictured in a set whose construction intentionally echoes the architectural qualities of the urban spaces photographed. The demeanour of the models in the studio photographs move between the enacted and un-posed, drawing parallels between people’s uneasy relation to public space in everyday life and how a model finds ‘a way to be’ in the theatrical context of the photo-shoot.

‘Studio/ Location Photographs’ continues my on-going use of photography and film to consider artifice as a condition of everyday life. I am currently developing a new film which plays narrative or psychological readings against the exposure and recognition of the conditions of the production of the works themselves.



Studio/ Location Photographs, Works|Projects, Bristol, UK


Sarah Dobai: Photographies et film, Zurcher Gallery, Paris, France


Sarah Dobai; Phototographs & Filmworks, Kettles Yard, Cambridge, UK
Short Story Piece. Changing Role Gallery, Naples, Italy.


Short Story Piece. 1000 000mph, London. UK. (New projection and bookwork)


What we talk about when we talk about love, Galerie Zurcher, Paris, France


Two on a Party, ArtLab, Imperial College, London, UK
Artists’ Space, New York, USA


On the Nature of Things, with R. Graham, S. Oxsannen & Jacques de la Villegle, Kamloops Art Gallery, Canada
A Fire is Set in the Masters House, Chapter Arts with Chodzko, Price & Dean, Chapter Arts, Cardiff
Ideal 13, Espace Croise, Roubaix, Lille, France
Peeping Tom , Dutch institute Kunsthal KAdE, Netherlands


Splitting in Two, Gimpel Fils, London
Peeping Tom,, curated by Keith Coventry, Vegas Gallery, London


Darkside II - Photographic Power & Violence, Disease & Death Photographed, curated by Ur Stahel, Fotomuseum Winterthur
Now You See It, Café Gallery, Southwark Park
Theatres of the Real, FotoMuseum, with Hunter, Shaffran and Pickering, Antwerp, Belgium
Figuring LandscapesBritish and Australian Film and Video curated by C. Elwes & S. Ball, Touring
exhibition and screening programme. Venues included Tate Modern, Dundee Contemporary Arts,
FACT Liverpool, Chapter Arts Cardiff, Site, Sheffield and Australian venues.


Limited, The Wharf Road Project, London, UK
In the Society of London Ladies. Group, Dispari Dispari, Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Italy.


Innocence & Experience, Gimpel Fils, London, UK


75 Years of Collecting: Portrait of a Citizen. Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver.
Simon and Sarah, Platform Gallery, London.
Subjectivity and Feminism, Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Art & Design


LOOP, International exhibition of Video and film, Barcelona, Spain


Richard Billingham, Sarah Dobai, Valie Export, Joao Penalva,
Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich, Germany.


Sodium Dreams. Group show including P. Huyghe, S. Morris, M. Boyce,
K. Asdam. Bard College, Centre for Curatorial Studies, New York, USA


Commissions East Residency, Jaywick, Nov ‘09-May 2010
International Centre des Recollets Residency and Commission, Paris, Spring 2008.
Delfina Studio Trust Award, 2006-2007
London Artists Film and Video Award from Film London 2006, funded by the Arts Council.
Residency at Delfina Studios, London 2004 – 2006.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Chelsea College of Arts
Date: 19 June 2009
Related Publications: Theatres of the Real ISBN 978-1-903796-26-9 110 pages including 44 colour plates. Essays by Joanna Lowry, David Green, Jan Baetens. Co published by Photoworks, Antwerp FotoMuseum and University of Brighton.
Locations / Venues:
LocationFrom DateTo Date
FotoMuseum, Antwerp19 June 200930 September 2009
Material/Media: photographs and a video installation
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2012 13:45
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2022 09:02
Item ID: 5226
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/5226

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