MOREHSHIN ALLAHYARI
Kabous
12 November 2021 - 08 January 2022


PRESS RELEASE (PDF)





Morehshin Allahyari’s long-term research based project, She Who Sees The Unknown (2016 - 2021), has been exhibited in galleries, at universities, and in museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City. The project uses sculpture, 3-D printing, video, projection, virtual reality, and hypertext narrative to re-create narratives of monstrous female/queer figures (also known as jinn) of Middle Eastern origin. Jinn, which, in pre-Islamic and Islamic theology, is a term used to describe an intelligent spirit made of smokeless fire, a shape-shifter somewhere between an angel and a demon. Allahyari uses the traditions and myths associated with these jinn to explore the catastrophes of colonialism, patriarchism and environmental degradation in relation to the Middle East.

Allahyari's second solo exhibition with OFG.XXX, KABOUS, presents a jinn belonging to the race of those who bring different ailments, trauma, and nightmares to humans. She is depicted as a djinn possessing a human with a nightmare, sitting on their chest while they are asleep. In Kitab-Albulhan and The Book of Felicity, Kabous is illustrated accompanied by two other djinn, whom Allahyrai names The Right and Left Witnesses.

This exhibition is based on an installation commissioned by the Shed in Hudson Yards, NYC, featuring a re-creation of the artist’s childhood bedroom in Tehran, Iran, VR (virtual reality) film, and two-3D printed sculptures. As soon as a gallery visitor puts the VR headsets on, they are possessed by Kabous and then taken to a Hamam (public bathhouse) where the stories of four generations of women (the artist’s grandmother, mother, Morehshin, and an imagined monstrous daughter) are told. Historically in Iran, public bathhouses were an important intimate social space for women to gather alone, while the bathhouse is also known as a chosen visiting place for jinn. Through this purposeful choice of hamam as the main architectural space, the audience is moved through multiple spaces and positions to hear the story of Allahyari’s grandmother’s first encounter with a jinn which coincides with a bombing of her village in Kurdistan by the Iraqi government. In the hamam, we hear the artist’s mother reading from her diary in Iran which she wrote when she was pregnant with Allahyari’s sister and herself during the Iran-Iraq war. Then we hear stories told by the artist on sanctions, monstrosity, and motherhood, ending with an imagined monstrous daughter who is birthed to heal our ancestors and our future generations of daughters to come. In short, this VR film provides the opportunity to revisit the complexities of motherhood, war, childbirth, kinship and the possible manifestation of epigenetic trauma, stored in DNA through generations.
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Written, created, and directed by Morehshin Allahyari; VR development by Pariah Interactive; Sound design by Prince Harvey; Diary text and voiceover by Mitra Kassai; Singing by Delina Zand Karimi and Fereshteh Khalediyan; Hamam research assistance by Negin Tabatabaei; Modeling assistance by Halime Maloof and Eva Khoury; Special thanks to Shaina Yang, Arezoo Allahyari, Sally Glass, Emily Martinez, and Lillyan Ling for further assistance.
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MOREHSHIN ALLAHYARI (b. 1985, Tehran, Iran) is an artist, activist, writer, and educator living and working in New York City. She 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 and struggles in the 21st century.

Morehshin has been part of numerous exhibitions, festivals, and workshops around the world including Venice Biennale di Archittetura, New Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Pompidou Center, Julia Stoschek Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, Tate Modern, Queens Museum, Pori Museum, Powerhouse Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, and 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), the Vilém Flusser Residency Program for Artistic Research in association with Transmediale, Berlin (2016), Eyebeam’s one year Research Residency (2016-2017) in NYC, Pioneer Works (2018), and Harvest Works (2018). Her work has been featured in The New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, Wired, National Public Radio, Parkett Art Magazine, Frieze, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Al Jazeera, among others.

She is the recipient of The United States Artist Fellowship (2021), The Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant (2019), The Sundance Institute New Frontier International Fellowship, and the Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 award by Foreign Policy magazine. Her work is in the collections of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and recently she has been awarded major commissions by The Shed, Rhizome,New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Liverpool Biennale, and FACT.