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She Who Sees The Unknown 

Morehshin Allahyari

She Who Sees The Unknown is an in-progress body of work on Digital Colonialism and re-Figuring as a Feminism and activism practice, using 3D scanners and 3D printers as my tools of investigation. Researching dark goddesses, monstrous, and djinn female figures of Middle-Eastern origin, I want to explore the symbolic meanings behind traditions and myths and speculate on the effects of colonialism and other forms of contemporary oppression. I devise a narrative through practices of magic and poetic-speculative storytelling, re-appropriation of traditional mythologies, collaging, meshing, 3D scanning/3D Printing, and archiving.

 

 

Archiving

Researching and gathering an image and text archive of dark goddesses and female jinn and monstrous figure of the Middle-East origin, mostly from ancient mythical stories and resources (an archive that does not exist in any form). This archive will take the format of both a physical reading room, a book (in collaboration with an Archaeologist friend and Imam in Iran), as well as an online web-based archive that will be available for free online.

Production

Creating a selection of 12 of these figures by re-appropriating and 3D modeling them from different ancient illustrations. Then 3D scanning the 3D printed models as a series of ritual ceremonial performances as well as video material for storytelling. I imagine the 3D printed sculptures to become an army of dark figures existing alongside a series of re-appropriated and mashed up talismans that I will source out from different Farsi and Arabic fawātih (فواتح) or “openers”, and other occult divinations.

 

Figures

Ya’jooj Ma’jooj

 

According to the Qur’an, the people of Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj spread great mischief on earth and represent chaos, so Allah gave Zulqarnain the power to build an iron wall to detain them, separating them from humans. In the prophecy, the Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj present a looming threat – that one day the wall will crumble and their release will precede ‘the end of the days’.

 

Finding myself literally “walled out” of the United States during Donald Trump’s first attempt at the Muslim travel ban, this story has a particular pertinence for me.

The resulting video, She Who Sees The Unknown: Ya’jooj Ma’jooj, 2017, imagines that Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj have broken down the wall and become one with the world, only to be pushed back and emerge again in an eternal repeating battle where they and the people who want them out of the city, become one; all representing the same kind of chaos and broken-ness.

 

Huma

 

Huma is a jinn known in various Middle-Eastern tales and myths who “brings heat to the human body and is responsible for the common fever.” The text for this video sits between fact and fiction as a way to re-appropriate her power (bringing heat) to the contemporary horror of our time; in this case global warming but specifically, the unjust conversation around it which makes it a very Western centric and colonized dialogue. In his Apocalypse Now! Fear and Doomsday Pleasures essay (one resource I have been inspired by in writing this text) Swyngedouw describes the inequality of this Apocalypse as following:

 

“While the elites fear both economic and ecological collapse, the consequences and implications are highly uneven. The elite’s fears are indeed only matched by the actually existing socio-ecological and economic catastrophes many already live in. The apocalypse is combined and uneven. And it is within this reality that political choices have to be made and sides taken.”

 

Through poetic and metaphoric narrations She Who Sees The Unknown: Huma explores this injustice by connecting it to heat/high temperature, madness, hallucination and the ‘taking over’ of this colonized power.

 

Ritual and Re-Figuring Session With Huma

 

Storytelling

Writing a separate narrative about each figure in form of video essay/fiction that uses the initial superpower/abilities of the specific jinn, goddess, monstrous figure but connects it to some form of contemporary oppression and colonialism.

 

Ha’m-Neshini

(Sitting Together) + Fabulation Stations

A series of intimate public performances, events and discussions in relationship to my research in collaboration with artists, scientists, and activist women from the Middle-East.

 

She Who Sees The Unknown - TRANSFER Gallery Exhibition

 

Morehshin Allahyari

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Morehshin Allahyari is an artist, activist, educator, and occasional curator. She is the recipient of the leading global thinkers of 2016 award by Foreign Policy magazine.

 

Morehshin was born and raised in Iran and moved to the United States in 2007. Her work deals with the political, social, and cultural contradictions we face every day. She thinks about technology as a philosophical toolset to reflect on objects and as a poetic means to document our personal and collective lives struggles in the 21st century. Morehshin is the co-author of The 3D Additivist Cookbook in collaboration with writer/artist Daniel Rourke– (published on December 2016 online in 3DPDF format and in print by the Institute of Networked Cultures). Her modeled, 3D-printed sculptural reconstructions of ancient artifacts destroyed by ISIS, titled Material Speculation: ISIS, have received widespread curatorial and press attention and have been exhibited worldwide.

 

Morehshin has been part of numerous exhibitions, festivals, and workshops around the world including Venice Biennale di Archittectura, Pompidou Center, Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, Tate Modern, Queens Museum, Pori Museum, Powerhouse Museum,  Dallas Museum of Art, Jeu de Paume, Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Museum für Angewandte Kunst. She has been an artist in residence at BANFF Centre (2013), Carnegie Mellon University’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (2015), Autodesk Pier9 Workshop in San Francisco (2015), and the Vilém Flusser Residency Program for Artistic Research in association with Transmediale, Berlin (2016), Eyebeam’s one year Research Residency (2016-2017) in NYC. Her work has been featured in the New YorkTimes, Huffington Post, Wired, National Public Radio, Parkett Art Magazine, Frieze, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Al Jazeera, among others.

 

Allahyari is currently developing a new body of work on Digital Colonialism and ‘re-Figuring’ as a Feminism and de-colonialism practice, using 3D scanners and 3D printers as her tools of investigation. Researching dark goddesses, monstrous, and djinn female figures of Middle-Eastern origin, Allahyari devises a narrative through practices of magic and poetic-speculative storytelling, re-appropriation of traditional mythologies, collaging, meshing, scanning, and archiving. She was recently awarded two major commissions by Rhizome as well as the Whitney Museum of Art, Liverpool Biennale, and FACT to work on developing archival and web-based aspects of this project.