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robertogreco : marcellafaustini   1

on material entanglements: an interview with morehshin allahyari : Open Space
"taking a closer look into her website, i found the 3d additivist manifesto that she wrote in collaboration with daniel rourke. the manifesto combines a mordant sense of humor with a calculated resignation to our dependence on fossil fuel materials, in this case the plastic used in 3d printing. the text immediately struck a chord with me: “its potential belies the complications of its history: that matter is the sum and prolongation of our ancestry; that creativity is brutal, sensual, rude, coarse, and cruel. we declare that the world’s splendour has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of crap, kipple and detritus. a planet crystallized with great plastic tendrils like serpents with pixelated breath.” this fatalism towards the material is posited as a way to attempt subversion towards the possibility of liberation. embracing it means that you take the glitches that will inevitably happen and that may eventually reveal within them an opportunity to corrupt the material towards a new reality.

i noticed in allahyari’s practice the willingness to seize on existing flaws in the forms and systems she chooses, pushing them towards alternative resolutions. she creates surrogate existences for her sources and materials, questioning their original and stagnant origins. humor and failure are also deployed as strategies and enablers.

we recently met to talk in more depth about her background, practice, and ongoing projects."



"Allahyari: Yeah. I have one of those personalities that is always being a rebel and not listening. I always felt this not belonging thing in a very different way. I wanted to get out. I didn’t want to live there. Of course, for also so many other reasons, because I just didn’t feel I would have the future I wanted in Iran. As a woman, it’s another whole process.

The amount of misogynistic and cultural taboos and shit around you is another thing that won’t make it easy for you to work. There are more Iranian women in universities than men. And women are very educated and they all have jobs. But at the same time, on a daily basis, you just constantly deal with sexism and sexual harassment and street harassment, and the glass ceiling is much more real. You can only move to a certain level of position. So yeah, I wanted to leave because I didn’t feel like I could belong in that society and it was suffering, living there.

The not belonging is a very different thing in the US, because then you end up constantly explaining yourself and explaining your life to people, and your daily life experience. And people don’t do that. People just do this out of public curiosity just on a daily basis, asking about your life and why did you move and how did you move and who are your parents, etc. All of these daily experiences makes this othering more real in your life. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. As long as I really have an accent and people ask where you’re from and I say, “Iran,” that will always be the case, right? You become this other because people are curious. People want to have associations about that.

I also would say that if anything, if I was going to have to go and choose countries to move to, the United States would still be my most preferable place to move to, because I think xenophobia in Europe is much more serious, and immigration…

I know a lot of friends from Iran who’ve moved to Sweden or France or, I don’t know, and you can never become a part of it. Living in the US, 98% of my friends are Americans. They’re my friends and I love them and they love me and we hang out all the time. They never make me feel like you’re just this other: “oh, you can’t be part of our community because you’re not American.”

Being American doesn’t [come with] the same resignation as being French or being Dutch, being British. All these have a really big thing, in terms of nationality, to them. Being American, unless you’re from Texas or whatever, it doesn’t really have that kind of thing, because of the history and background and…"



"Allahyari: Exactly. After I finished the recreation of these 12 artifacts that were destroyed by ISIS, I released a folder on Rhizome as part of their Download series, which contains all the information that I had gathered during the research process about the artifacts, their history, the process of research, images, and the obj/sti files.

This idea of releasing this information online became really important for me because in the last one year, with all this destruction, as ISIS has been going to Iraq and Syria and destroying these artifacts, there has been a lot of response from a lot of tech companies and Western archaeological institutions, [wanting] to recreate these artifacts. This has become a highly fashionable thing. When I started to work on my Material Speculation project I was interested in using 3-D printing as this poetic, metaphoric tool, but also a practical activism tool to recreate these artifacts. I’ve been approaching it, of course, as an artist, as this conceptual work. My project got a lot of attention and press. I would get all these emails from different — especially based in San Francisco — tech companies and different places, asking, “Do you want to do a life size version of this project? Or do you want to collaborate with us? We have a digital library.”

One thing that I started to think about a lot — and this is me now looking back and rebuilding and interrupting myself — was the fact that — there are two things. One is digital colonialism. Two was the relationship between these tech people, usually white men, this Silicon Valley ideology of recreating these artifacts. So if ISIS claims these objects, these histories, by destroying them, the Silicon Valley ideology is that the Western tech companies reclaim it by recreating it. So they become…

faustini: they become branded.

Allahyari: That’s the digital colonialism part I am interested in. Because some of these tech companies go to the Middle East and they basically 3-D scan these artifacts, and then they bring it back and they won’t release the files online or give public access to these 3D models. So there’s a question of access, ownership, copyright, profit. I know different websites that you have — for example the model is online, but you can’t really download it. If you want to have access to it, you have to pay $2,000 to download it. Basically, with these new tools, we have entered this digital colonialism era, which didn’t exist before in the same way. So these technologies have brought in these whole new possibilities and problems.

I’ve been talking a lot about this digital colonialism, and what does it mean that we are all celebrating this? “Ooh, look, they are reconstructing these things,” but not asking questions about what happens to these files, what happens to data, ignoring the whole history of colonialism. These Western companies and archeologists going there, 3-D scanning these things, bringing them back.

Did you see the new Palmyra thing that was launched in London? Palmyra was this arc that was destroyed by ISIS. They rebuilt it in collaboration with the UK-based Institute for Digital Archeology, UNESCO, and Dubai’s Museum of the Future Foundation. They recreated this in London and launched it a few months ago. People are taking selfies in front of these things, and everyone is so excited. But what does it mean? What does this act mean, for these people doing this project and then putting it out there?

Another thing that happened when my project was getting all this attention, there were a lot of titles like this: “Artist battles ISIS with a 3-D printer.” “This artist fights ISIS in virtual reality.” Obviously, that’s the problem with doing political-related art. My project definitely got hijacked by media. There has been a lot of amazing reviews by the art world about it, in-depth and really beautifully written. But with the press, it was all that. This kind of framing; and then this which is like creating these things and putting it in London or New York, it creates this thing about it’s us and them. It’s about “look at us.” These civilized Western, white people, bringing these things. We’re the heroes. We’re bringing these things and rebuilding them, against these savages and terrorists and Muslims. It had — a lot of these articles and the way they were framing it, definitely had a xenophobic narrative to it.

I have been trying to keep my project away from it and just talk about my relationship to this piece, because it comes from a lot of personal, poetic — a conceptual relationship to the 3-D printer, to printing, to information, to access… the aesthetics of these specific things.

faustini: how would you summarize your personal position in this as different from the ones espoused by these private parties?

Allahyari: Because it’s about context. It’s about why and how and what way we do things, right? What does it mean? Again, ignoring — putting these things in London and then celebrating it is so fucking dark to me, because it becomes about that position. The Western, civilized people saving the cultural heritage, which suddenly also, like the Middle East cultural heritage is the world’s shared cultural heritage, which I can go on and on about, because that’s bullshit.

If you read these articles and why these archaeologists are interested in recreating these things, the expression that they use is the universal shared cultural heritage. They refer to these things as a cultural heritage that is shared between humans and that is universal, and this ownership over it. That’s why they want to save it, because it’s our shared cultural heritage. Which is like, no! Can we talk about why it’s shared? How is it shared cultural heritage, and when did it become the shared cultural heritage? It’s this universality, which to me, is very dangerous, because then it justifies… [more]
morehshinallahyari  marcellafaustini  2016  interviews  art  siliconvalley  isis  responsibility  us  europe  xenophobia  belonging  activism  additivism  immigration  technology  future  colonialism  culture 
december 2016 by robertogreco

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