Rah Eleh Saneie Rah is an Iranian-Canadian video, photo and performance artist. Rah has been the recipient of numerous awards and residencies including: Conseil Des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec Grant for Film (2015) and Digital Arts (2014), Studio Das Weisse Haus Residency (Vienna, 2014), Artslant Georgia Fee Residency (Paris, 2014), Ottawa Art Gallery Award of Excellence (2013) and the SAW Video Award (2012). Further, Rah was invited by the Williams College Museum of Art to create a performance in response to Diana Abu-Jaber’ s book, Crescent. She was also the only Iranian-Canadian artist in SAW Galleries Ciphers: Tension with Tradition in Contemporary Iranian Photography which was curated by PhD. Andrea D. Fitzpatrick and was a first-of-its-kind exhibition of Iran’s most critically acclaimed lens-based artists. In 2012, Rah’s video Eslah, 2012, was published in Art Journal, Vol. 8, a scholarly article written by PhD. Francine Dagenais and was published in Tehran, Iran. Rah is represented by Vtape, Canada’s leading artist-run distributor for video art.
The residency was focused and busy today, as the day culminated in a run-through of all the projects. As we cheered our fellow residents efforts, it became clear how much work, and how many projects, developed this year in a compressed period of time. This is a credit both to the creativity of the residents, but also to their willingness to work collaboratively. Many residents had perhaps only a small role to play in a given project, but a crucial one—suggesting a way a project might unfold, solving a technical problem, or perhaps merely holding a mic boom during a shooting. We are looking forward to presenting a number of the projects in the village tomorrow, a first for Koumaria, which will be very useful for us as we prepare final versions to present back in Athens. By using many sites within the village, and between the village and the residency itself, we hope to creatively interact with this locals–both revealing their histories and their potentials as sites for creative engagement with space, place and memory.
Its our duty to expose ourselves even when we don’t feel comfortable.” This is, in a sense, a moral of this residency, each resident needs to expose themselves, to new ideas, new techniques, new situations, and to authentically expose who they are, what they think, to others. This year this has been very unproblematic, and everyone has taken this duty very seriously. They day was spent refining projects. A small group of residents went to Mystras, an important Byzantine site across the valley from the residency. There amidst ruined walls and buildings, numerous churches whose original ornamentation and sacred power still show forth, and fragrant vegetation, video and photos were shot, while, at the same time, we came to a deeper understanding of the history and importance of the valleys and mountains that surround us. As this blog shows, one resident, a dancer, after many days of observing and interacting with the landscape, came to an understanding, one of many possible understandings, of how her body and movements might fit in with the surroundings. After dinner we has a “show and tell” of all the projects, and it is remarkable both how many, how close to completion, and how aesthetically focused, they are. We are at the stage where many of the projects really start to reveal their potentialities, they open up and suggest numerious ways of resolving them, multiple arc they may embody. It is at this point we need to follow the advice of one resident: “The problem is, I should not think too much.”
Improvise and think about exploring your own self”—This was the motto for the first test of the interactive tunic worn by one of the dancers today. The main residency space witnessed the development of this technology, which was a melding of old crafts, sewing, embroidering, clothing design, with the new, sound mapping and synthesis. Slowly, as the day progressed more controlled and articulate sounds and movements took place, as the dancer came to embody both the costume, and the sounds it can produce. We await further developments of this project! For others, today began very early, as a 5 am wake-up call circulated to those part of a dawn video shoot involving dance with live musical improvisation, and the fading stars and slowly emerging mountain ridge. The wind was strong, and the temperature was cool, but perseverance on the part of the performers, and some audio editing magic, made the session a success. A bit later, but still in the morning, another group headed to the village at the base of the mountain for the celebration of the Greek national holiday being celebrated today, remembering the beginning of Greek involvement in WWII. Others went into the local village for a café break before returning to the residency to continue working, where the fabric speakers, with embroidered voice-coils (!), interactive tunics, and digital wind-chimes were being tested. After lunch a large number of residents returned to the abandoned olive processing factory for the first day of shooting of a movement-based video project. While all this was going on, another multi-media project is taking shape on the roof, and video-projection boxes are being built, along with assorted custom audio patches. The energy level is great, everyone is busy enjoying their projects, and accepting input and suggestions from where ever they may come from. Tonight we will see early drafts of some projects, test further emerging technologies, and talk about what is to come. The documentary crew has been shooting a massive amount of video, and has begun interviews with the residents. Things can get so busy that you forget where you are—until you look up and see that the landscape is still here!
Perhaps there is another residency in the world with an astronomical observatory on the roof, but there certainly is no other residency that houses in its observatory what we have! Upon climbing a ladder to the roof, one rounds a bend, ascends a couple of steps, and is faced with a white domed observatory. The inscription on the dome “Space Is The Place”, drawn from our friend from Saturn Sun Ra, clues you in to the fact that this will be no normal observatory. You bend over, and enter the darkened space, and are met by a table full of zoomorphic creatures, created out of assorted electrical parts, spot lit by small lamps, all looked after by their creator who is working a control surface and a mixing board. Spindly shadows bounce off the spherical roof, electronic sounds, all produced by the creatures, emerge from speakers. The sight is evocative, haunting and strangely beautiful. If you enter with an instrument, and ask politely, the creatures may well consent to improvising with you. Soon an ensemble sound emerges. Our only issue now, how to introduce the audience at the Onassis center to our metal and silicon friends, for they are small, and somewhat shy….