Intangible Heritages, Belief's Demise (2014)


20 minute, performance installation
ScultpureCenter, Long Island City, NYC
As part of In Practice, curated by Kari Rittenbach


Sahra Motalebi’s multimedia work, Intangible Heritages, Belief’s Demise (2014), is a virtual shadow playcomposed from the shifting shapes of human and non-human sculptural forms that create a series of visual rhythms, projected on screen, which ‘score’ the vocal performance of an original operetta. Through the multidimensional commingling of a visually flattened, albeit moving image, instrumentation and live harmonization with other pre-recorded voices and verses, Motalebi constructs a layered, first-person narrative for the progression of a single character through a series of epic trials based on historical, if neglected archetypes: the prostitute, the warrior-prisoner, and the elderly householder.Derived from ancient Eastern storytelling traditions, the shadow play presaged early cinema and modern animation techniques. In its digital manifestation for Intangible Heritages, Motalebi makes use ofabstract and other non-representational methods to transform the articulated figural specificities of the genre into something more ambiguous and spectral. - Kari Rittenbach
Full program here

The three scenes of Intangible Heritages, Beilef's Demise are structured around three first-person character studies that are drawn from both ‘historical’ figures and semi-autobiographical sketches: a young prostitute, a middle-aged warrior in prison, and an elderly householder. Traversing questions of historiography, gender and sexuality, the characters are only apprehended by their contour and silhouette; framed by first-person narration that explores boredom, despair and ecstasy alike - androgynous, sometimes atavistic and without cultural context.

The shaky relationship between the performance of character, the process of myth-making and the stage itself is on view here, as the title is meant to suggest. The word heritages denotes larger ideas about cultural forms, but also normative social constructs that the artist downloads unwittingly.


Photos from the top: Sahra Motalebi, Intangible Heritages, Belief’s Demise, 2014. Performance view, In Practice: Chance Motives. Courtesy SculptureCenter, 2014. Photo: Megan Mantia. Right photo: Motalebi in rehearsal by Zach Gross, courtesy the artist. Scene 1 Series featuring Tyler Ashley, courtesy of the artist.