She Who Sees The Unknown: Kabous, The Right Witness, and The Left Witness, 2019
VR experience for Oculus Go
She Who Sees the Unknown: Kabous, The Right Witness and The Left Witness (2019), commissioned by The Shed, features a VR film, sculptures, and a bedroom installation. Upon entering a bedroom modeled after my childhood room in Iran, the audience will lie down on a daybed and put on a VR headset to view a film about Kabous, a jinn who brings nightmare and sleep paralysis to human body. Surrounding the bed are two 3D-printed sculptures of the ‘witnesses’ of Kabous (I have re-appropriated these two witnesses from different illustrations and named them the fictional characters of The Right Witness and The Left Witness).
As soon as the audience puts the VR headsets on, she/he is possessed by Kabous and then taken to a Hamam (public bathhouse) where the stories of four generations of women (my grandmother, mother, myself, 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 my 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 my mother reading from her diary in Iran which she wrote when she was pregnant with my sister and I during the Iran-Iraq war. Then we hear stories told by me 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.
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.
Duration: 00:12:13 (video)
Image Credits: Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees The Unknown: Kabous, The Right Witness, The Left Witness, Still image from VR video, commissioned by The Shed, image courtesy artist, 2019
Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown: Kabous, The Right Witness, and the Left Witness, 2019, installation with 3D printed resin sculptures and VR video. Photo by Dan Bradica, image courtesy of the artist and The Shed (NYC, NY).
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Morehshin Allahyari (Persian: موره شین اللهیاری; born 1985) is an Iranian-Kurdish media artist, activist, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She uses computer modeling, 3D scanning, and digital fabrication techniques to explore the intersection of art and activism. Inspired by concepts of collective archiving and cultural contradiction, Allahyari’s 3D-printed sculptures and videos challenge social and gender norms. She wants her work to respond to, resist, and criticize the current political and cultural situation that is experienced on a daily basis. Her work has been part of numerous exhibitions, festivals, and workshops at venues throughout the world, including the New Museum, MoMa, Centre Pompidou, Venice Biennale di Archittectura, and Museum für Angewandte Kunst among many others. She is the recipient of 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 3D Additivist Manifesto video is in the collection of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and recently she has been awarded major commissions by The Shed, Rhizome, New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Liverpool Biennale, and FACT.
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