Sarah Dobai’s practice is based in photography and film and has in recent years extended into publication and performance. Her work reflects on the central position of photography and cinema in relation to on-going debates around realism, illusionism and authorship.
Sarah Dobai’s recent film, Hidden in Plain Sight, commissioned by Catsou Roberts for the Centre d’art et photographie de Lectoure (Gers, France), looked at the figure of the petty thief as featured in Robert Bresson’s acclaimed film Pickpocket. In this work which has recently been shown at The Photographers Gallery, Dobai worked with actors to re-enact sections from Bresson’s film where the protagonists rehearse and perform the techniques that pickpockets use to avoid being caught. Accompanied by an intimate account written from the perspective of one of the protagonists, Hidden in Plain Sight has been screened alongside a live voiceover performed by an actor. The work reflects on the position of the actor and the thief both of who rely on the arts of mimicry and deception.
Her recent publication The Overcoat (2015) comprises a republication of Nikolai Gogol’s classic novella. The darkly humorous short novel (1842) tells of the life of a lowly and impoverished government clerk whose existence is briefly transformed by a new coat. Published by Four Corners Books, the book includes a body of photographs that depict commercial vitrines in London and Paris. The photographs consider these displays in relation to the confusion of surface appearance with reality that figures both in the story and on the streets of the city.
Dobai’s other recent exhibitions and projects include the major group exhibition The Vanishing Point in History with Matthew Buckingham, Uriel Orlow and Lina Selander for L’ete Photographique de Lectoure and performance/ screenings at The Photographers’ Gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery and Spike Island, Bristol. Her 16mm film Nettlecombe commissioned by Film London has been shown as an installation and screening at CCA Glasgow, Picture This, Bristol, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery, British Columbia, Kuandu Museum of Fine Art, Taipei; Scope. Other recent exhibitions include Twenty Second Hold, Works Projects and City Lives, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Theatre of the Real, FotoMuseum Antwerp; Darkside II, FotoMuseum Winterthur, Switzerland and Studio/Location Photographs, Bristol. Previous exhibitions include Sarah Dobai: Photographs & Film works, Kettles Yard, Cambridge; Above the City, Artist’s Space, New York; Sodium Dreams, Bard College, New York; September Horse, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin and Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago di Compostella.
Sarah Dobai completed an MFA at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She lives and works in London.