bodies in blue surgical gowns and rubber gloves

Tracing Trauma, a digital print on chiffon, is one of multimedia artist Kean O’Brien’s recent works. (Photo provided)

November 08, 2021

Artist to share work, discuss activism and social justice roles

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Multimedia artist Kean O’Brien will present his work during a discussion next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

O’Brien will present “Tracing Trauma Through the Landscape of Trans Bodies” at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 10, in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium. Admission is free and the event, a visiting artist lecture sponsored by the College of Arts and Media and the School of Media Arts, is open to the public. SIU is committed to protecting the community, so all those attending this event must wear masks and follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols.

Interdisciplinary artist

O’Brien works between video, photography, found images, installation and writings where “he focuses on queer strategies of survival in end times, the nuance of gendered construction, whiteness, the body as landscape for survival, death, grief and trauma,” according to the artist’s website.

“Tracing Trauma,” the website states, “holds space for the way trauma traces upon the body, upon O’Brien’s own body. Using sculptures and photos, he creates an index of the trauma that is both positive and negative.”

Heather M. O’Brien, an assistant professor in cinema who is not related to the artist, teaches several courses in the School of Media Arts “where we often discuss topics of gender identity and artistic practice.” She noted that several students identify as queer/nonbinary “so this talk comes at a timely moment that offers a connection for these students, as well as others to understand the importance of inclusion and diversity as it comes to gender identity.”

Presenting the trajectory of his work, Kean O’Brien “will discuss his evolution with conceptions of gender, trauma on the trans body both individually and collectively, and the role of artists in activism and social justice,” she said.

Kean O’Brien has a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Photography at the California Institute of the Arts and a bachelor’s degree from the School of Photography and Performance from The School of Art Institute of Chicago.