Morehshin Allahyari: Rendering Borders

Rendering Borders

In the summer of 2018, Iranian artist Moreshin Allahyari and Lior Zalmanson, an Israeli artist and scholar, undertook an exhibition at the Art Cube Artists’ Studio in Jerusalem, exploring and manipulating issues of bodies, borders and the limits of individual freedom in the digital era.

Allahyari and Zalmason used the space as a home base for an examination of what it means to exist in a world both limitless—as in a global digital community and highly regulated—within the boundaries of political land-masses, beginning first with Allahyari’s inability to travel to the site of the exhibition because she holds an Iranian passport.

In the duration of the show, pieces of Allahyari’s body were printed within the space of the gallery, literally materializing along with the exhibition. However, her body was not meant to be a perfect one- to- one copy, manifesting instead as the Persian goddess Ishtar. Surrounding the creation was Allahyari’s project “She Who Sees the Unknown,” in which monsters, jinns and dark goddesses across cultural boundaries are engaged as feminist tools.

Rather than presenting the work to be simply consumed by the viewer, visitors (digital and corporeal) were invited to participate through an application process based on psychological screening exams used by the army. The questions for applicants followed the lines of what might be asked of a metaphysical secret agent. If accepted, the participant was provided with a printed body part of Allahyari’s.

These agents were then encouraged to document the body part in charged locations. At the end of the exhibition, the agents were invited to congregate for a final celebration titled “Border Control” where Allahyari’s body was reassembled within the space.

As relayed through Haaretz, one such agent took the artist’s hair and photographed it at the Dead Sea, noting “As a former Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] woman, I found a common thread between the idea of the head, the covering of the hair, and the place I came from…The Dead Sea is where I find the most freedom. Something about the altitude, the heat, the salt and the mosquitoes makes me feel this is as low as it gets, and from here the only way is up.”

Images courtesy of the artist.
Text by Katrina Mohn, The Offing Art Editor.

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