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Life of Mohammad

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi

A photo of Life of Mohammad
A photo of Life of Mohammad

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

September 3–October 26, 2019

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Maryam Monalisa Gharavi’s Life of Mohammad constructs a fictional single life from the lives of seven real people named Mohammad. Conceived as a multi-channel video and installation, the work follows the unfolding of ordinary lives held together by the world’s most common—and least culturally understood—name. The project will take shape through a series of prismatic forms, in which separate refracted parts act as one whole. Life of Mohammad will include public programs, film/video, domestic physical objects, clothing, portraiture, oral history, publication, and a curated library and film archive. The public will be invited to engage through open casting sessions, an interactive installation, and a seven-channel video.

Life of Mohammad is foreshadowed by ongoing dystopian political trauma in the U.S., heightened since 2001. Under the banner of ‘less freedom for some, more security for all,’ men and boys with Muslim names were held subject to the degradation of civil and human rights, including unwarranted deportation, encroaching government surveillance, and negative mediated stereotypes. In the current moment, Executive Order 13769, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (or the “Muslim ban”) further encodes an Enemy-Other whose names, ethnic origins, and sartorial choices undergo unjust scrutiny. By re-conceptualizing the ordinary as extraordinary and uniting them by a single name, Gharavi illustrates the cost of flattening Othered subjects.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi is an artist, poet, and theorist whose work explores the interplay between aesthetic and political valences in the public domain. Exhibitions, performances, and expanded publications include Nottingham Contemporary, Pioneer Works, Parasol Unit, Serpentine Cinema, Framer Framed, Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Art Dubai, New Museum, Pacific Film Archive, Sonic Acts, Triple Canopy, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, The Poetry Project, Women and Performance, The White Review, Art in America, The Literary Review, Asymptote, among others. She was previously an artist-in-residence at Residency Unlimited (U.S.A.), Aftab Committee (U.S.A.), Wysing Arts Centre (U.K), Industry Lab (U.S.A.), Delfina Foundation (U.K.), Darat al Funun (Jordan), and Mansion (Lebanon). She completed a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Film & Visual Studies at Harvard University and an M.F.A. in Film/Video at Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, and held a postdoctoral Fulbright and Visiting Professorship at Birzeit University. She was Lecturer in History & Literature at Harvard University from 2012 to 2017, and has served as visiting faculty/studio artist at New York University, Valand Academy, Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, and Bard Microcollege. Book publications include a translation of Waly Salomão’s Algaravias: Echo Chamber (Ugly Duckling Presse), nominated for a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; The Distancing Effect (BlazeVOX); and Bio (Inventory Press). Artist books/chapbooks include Apparent Horizon 2 (Bonington Gallery); Alphabet of an Unknown City (Belladonna*), and Secret Catalan Poem (The Elephants). She was editor at The New Inquiry between 2012 and 2017, and is author of the open text South/South. She lives and works in New York.

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