Serena Abou Daher M.M. ’18 Combines Visuals and Audio to Create Spectacular Digital Art
As a young musician, Serena Abou Daher M.M. ’18 thought that talent and skill would be enough to make it as an artist. It was at Berklee Valencia that she learned a valuable lesson about the industry: success isn’t handed out on a silver platter. Talent is important, but it’s hard work and determination that brings opportunity.
For Abou Daher, self-promotion has been a huge factor in her success. After graduation, she began actively looking for opportunities, putting her work out there and searching for ways to display her art. She didn’t wait for something to fall in her lap.
It was this mentality that led to her biggest exhibition to date. Seeking new opportunities to showcase her work, Daher entered an open call for a chance to exhibit a piece at the award-winning Theatre of Digital Art (ToDa) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Abou Daher created both the digital imagery and the soundscape for her audio-visual piece Aether, resulting in a unique, immersive experience. The exhibition, which garnered international attention from CNN Global, ran for nine months in 2022 and was minted as an NFT.
As a Dubai-based artist, it was a huge source of pride to represent the emirate’s growing art scene. “I think that I was the only local artist among the 10 artists. The rest didn’t live in the country,” she says.
A graduate of the Master of Music in music production, technology, and innovation (MPTI) program, Abou Daher acquired the technical skills of sound design and projection mapping for visual performances during her time at Berklee Valencia. These skills would subsequently play a pivotal role in shaping her artistic style.
While music has always been Abou Daher's passion, limited academic opportunities in Dubai initially led her to pursue a B.F.A. in visual communication at American University in Dubai. It was during this period that Daher was introduced to tools like Adobe Photoshop and After Effects. Later, she combined these visual skills with her electronic music and production expertise, which she honed at Berklee Valencia.
“When I first came to Berklee they were really excited about my visuals, and they wanted me to do something with this,” she says.
With this freedom to experiment and create, Abou Daher defined a unique style; her audio-visual installation We’re Not There, launched at International Music Summit (IMS) 2018 via the event’s social media channels, reflects this.
Daher went on to perform content from the project in a live VJ set alongside the artist La Chica.
In 2021, Abou Daher was asked to create content and perform a VJ set alongside live musicians for the EXPO 2020 in Dubai (held a year later due to COVID-19). “I was controlling the screen, and I had to go according to the music; switch the song, switch the visuals, add some glitch effects, make it work on strobe effects.”
The performance allowed her to embrace her creativity using innovative technology and the skills she learned in Valencia. “[Berklee] introduced me to something that I don't think I would have [ever known about], the projection mapping and visual performances,” says Abou Daher.
Whether Daher is writing and producing music or designing visuals, the two mediums have become inextricably linked in her creative process. “Even now in my private time and with my own projects, I start with a song and if I kind of get stuck or not, I always imagine a visual. I have a whole idea that goes with it. And vice versa,” she says.
In recent years, Abou Daher's unique art has been showcased in a range of prominent exhibitions, including Campus Art Dubai, which featured her audio-visual work All of Your Pieces in 2022.
Alongside her artistic pursuits, she holds a faculty position at the American University of Dubai as assistant professor of digital media.
Abou Daher continues to make electronic music and is currently finishing up her latest single, which she plans to self-release later this year. Eventually, she hopes to perform live, using her visual art to create an immersive audio-visual show using the performance techniques she learned at the college.
“I'm fixing it up a little bit, producing it, and then I'll release it,” she says. “It's a really nice track.”