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Sarah Dobai

Senior Lecturer
University of the Arts London
Researcher Research
Sarah  Dobai


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 a photography and cinema in relation to on-going debates around realism, illusionism and authorship.

Dobai’s recent exhibitions and projects include the Principles & Deceptions, Or Gallery, Vancouver and Filet, London. The bookwork The Overcoat was published with Four Corners Books works from which were shown in the major group exhibition The Vanishing Point in History with Matthew Buckingham, Uriel Orlow and Lina Selander for L’ete Photographique de Lectoure. Recent performance/ screenings of the film Hidden in Plain Sight have taken at The Photographers’ Gallery, Deptford X & Rencontres International Paris. Her 16mm film Nettlecombe commissioned by Film London has been show 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 Theatres of the Real, FotoMuseum Antwerp, Belgium; Darkside II, FotoMuseum Winterthur, Switzerland and Studio/Location Photographs, Works/Projects, 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.

In the mid 1990‘s, Sarah Dobai completed an MFA at the University of British Columbia, 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. Sarah Dobai completed an MFA at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She lives and works in London.

Sarah Dobai’s recent performance Bees in a Hive of Glass commissioned by Whitstable Biennale was produced in collaboration with novelist Tom McCarthy. The latest iteration of a performance work first commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery & Spike Island, Bristol (2012), the work was framed as a photo shoot with models staged in a live context. Staged in a large industrial space by the harbour, the work used a constructed set the character of which referred to commercial vitrines & acoustic meeting pods as found in offices. Through such the staging of the work will look to the corporate & institutional use of architectural glass to turn employees into models and offices into displays spaces for images of production. The work was accompanied by a recorded reading of a cut-up prose/poem by Tom McCarthy set in a composed soundscape.

Her recent publication The Overcoat (2015) comprised a republication 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 Dobai’s new 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.

Research Outputs

Art/Design item




Past research students

  • Alice Evans, The Dissociated Image in Contemporary Photography. (Joint supervisor)


Fine art