Morehshin Allahyari’s ongoing work, She Who Sees the Unknown (2017–present), addresses digital colonialism and “refiguring” from a feminist and decolonial position. Researching female monsters, jinn, and dark goddesses of Middle Eastern origin, Allahyari uses poetic-speculative storytelling to re-appropriate traditional mythologies. In her installation She Who Sees the Unknown: The Laughing Snake, Allahyari builds upon the myth of the jinn, a monstrous creature in Arabic and Persian mythology, to draw viewers into an intimate, nonlinear narrative that explores gender and sexual oppression in the Middle East. Originally found in the Arabic manuscript Kitab al-bulhan (Book of Wonders), the myth of the Laughing Snake presents a destructive narrative in which a female figure goes on a murderous spree, taking over a city. She is finally destroyed when she sees her own reflection in a mirror, causing her to laugh so hard that she dies.
She Who Sees the Unknown: The Laughing Snake uses mirrors to create an enclosed and distorted space. The installation includes a 3D-printed sculpture of the Laughing Snake suspended nearby a large-scale touch screen, which presents the online portal to the work. The net-art component of She Who Sees the Unknown: The Laughing Snake reimagines the origin myth, unfolding through a series of hypertexts and images that offer a semi-fictionalized account of the artist’s coming of age in Tehran, Iran, in the 1980s and 1990s. As this narrative evolves, the snake emerges as a complex figure, drawing viewers into distorted visions of femaleness and refracting images of otherness and monstrosity. Continued development of She Who Sees the Unknown is supported by a joint commission from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Liverpool Biennale; and the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Liverpool; as well as a 2018 Rhizome Commission.
Morehshin Allahyari is a media artist, activist, and educator who uses computer modeling, 3D scanning, and digital fabrication techniques to explore the intersection of art and activism. Born and raised in Tehran, she moved to the United States in 2007, where she currently engages with technology to document our personal and collective struggles in the twenty-first century. Allahyari’s recent residencies and awards include a residency at Pioneer Works, New York; a research residency at Eyebeam, New York; and a sculpture award from the Institute of Digital Art, Ulm, Germany. Allahyari has exhibited her work at the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Venice Architecture Biennale, among other venues. Allahyari received an MFA at the University of North Texas, an MA at University of Denver, and a BA at the University of Tehran. More at her website: http://www.morehshin.com/