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Diptheria: Phase II
January 28, 2023 – June 4, 2023
Constricted. Wanting to speak but barely uttering more than an eerie sound. Silenced, most women of the world are not allowed to express themselves fully, in a free way. Like diphtheria, which spreads through the air and through direct social contact, efforts to limit free speech begin to take hold from within. The initial installation was a metaphor for all forbidden voices around the world and throughout history. Women in the Middle East, in particular, struggle to make themselves heard, but with great difficulty as if stricken by this terrible disease. Is there no vaccination that could protect society from such a malady? Freedom of speech can only thrive in a healthy political environment.
My artistic conceptualization and process are a reflection of the time and space in which they occur and evolve with events and changing perspectives. As an artist I have to decide when a work is done. The original ideas explored in Diphtheria are even more relevant today as the world finds itself in the throes of conflicts over who can speak and who has rights. This newest iteration is a visual and auditory experience of the intensifying struggles of Iranians and a soundscape of their current social and political milieu. Diphtheria: Phase ii serves as document and testament of what was, what is and augurs the possibility of what the future may be.
Raheleh Filsoofi is a collector of soil and sound, an itinerant artist, a feminist curator, and a community service advocate. Her work synthesizes socio-political statements as a point of departure and further challenges these fundamental arguments by incorporating ancient and contemporary media such as ceramics, poetry, ambient sound, and video. Her interdisciplinary practices act as the interplay between the literal and figurative contexts of land, ownership, immigration, and border.
Her work has been shown individually and collaboratively in Iran and the United States. Her recent exhibitions include interactive multimedia solo exhibitions, Debated Narrative, at ENGAGE Projects in Chicago (2022), and Artifacting in Unrequired Leisure gallery in Nashville (2022), which both received reviews in Observer and Nashville Scene. She is the participant artist in the Sharjah Biennial 15, Thinking Historically in the Present, and the 2023 Tennessee Triennial. Filsoofi’s Imagined Boundaries, a multimedia installation consisting of two separate exhibitions, debuted concurrently in a solo exhibition at the Abad Gallery in Tehran and a group exhibition, Dual Frequency, at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Florida, in 2017. The installation connected audiences in the U.S. and Iran for a few hours on the night of the exhibition opening.
She is the 2022 winner of the 1858 Contemporary Southern Art Award and the recipient of the 2021 Southern Prize Tennessee State Fellowship. She is an Assistant Professor of Ceramics in the Department of Art at Vanderbilt University. She holds an M.F.A. in Fine Arts from Florida Atlantic University and a B.F.A. in Ceramics from Al-Zahra University in Tehran, Iran.
- Curated by Michael Dickins