In 2020 I obtained a PhD in Art History and Theory from the University of British Columbia. I was a Liu Scholar and curator at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, an interdisciplinary research hub for emerging global and community issues in the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, and I was supported by the prestigious Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Fellowship. From 2018 to 2019 I was the fellow-in-residence of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art at Darat al Funun in Amman, Jordan. I am currently curator in the History of Art & Architecture department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I oversee the Image Resource Center (IRC), including the Digital Image Lab and Center for Object-Based Research and Learning.

I am currently interested in the following questions: How do artists today preserve, repair and reconstitute the individual memories of the disappeared and displaced? How might material ruins mark yet mask evidence of what there was before? How—and why—does the mnemonic capability of the image and affective force of art exceed written narratives alone? And how does visual art inscribe the disappeared into the domain of history? When there are few pathways to restorative justice, visual artists often disrupt the void of political representation and attempt to produce otherwise invisible subjects by means of visual representation.

Accordingly, I consider how the production of images, including the recuperation, repair, and reclamation of images from archival sources, is a key component of any process of reconciliation after conflict. My method incorporates a wide range of sources, including numerous archives in the Middle East, art historical texts, open-source investigators, and reports and documents produced by NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN.


PhD  University of British Columbia, Canada
MA  University of British Columbia, Canada

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    Jeff O'Brien

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