Abracadabra: Video works by Sarah Brahim and Fernanda D’Agostino, Ronnie Karfiol, and Laleh Mehran: June 2022 Exhibition

June 4 – June 25 | Opening Reception June 4, 4-7pm

In collaboration with Vanderbilt University’s “Arts, and the Middle East: Building Bridges to the Global and the Local” 2022-2023 initiative COOP Gallery is pleased to present “Abracadabra” video works by three Middle Eastern female artists. The goal of the Middle East art initiative is to raise awareness of the Middle East and connect the Nashville population with the many Middle Eastern communities who live and work in Tennessee. In this program our goal is to present an articulated look into the many cultures, traditions, and social complexities present within the Middle East and its diaspora. Through art, we wish to address issues regarding Middle Eastern internal relations and relations between the Middle East and the United States. Abracadabra brings together three artists: Saudi Arabian-based movement artist Sarah Brahim, the Israeli media artist Ronnie Karfiol, and the Iranian Artist Laleh Mehran.

More about the Artists

Sarah Brahim is Riyadh-based movement artist. She studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and the London Contemporary Dance School. She has worked professionally performing, choreographing, and directing movement. She crafts work around themes of culture, loss, identity, veiling, borders, race, migration, transnational experience, woman of color experience, body in landscape, and the imprint places can leave us. She has been a resident at Spaceness Artist Residency, New Expressive Choreographic residency, 33 Officina Creative, and Alembic choreographic residency.

As a choreographer and artist, she has been supported by the American Dance Festival, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, The Field NYC, Drinking Gourd Fellowship, Samt, Hafez Gallery, Athr Gallery, and Performance Works North West. She has exhibited at the Ori Gallery in Portland, Hafez and Athr Galleries in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and has spoken about her work at the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sidra Arts, and the Portland Art Museum.

Our Cup is Broken is a performance between Sarah Brahim and the video artist Fernanda D’Agostino. The two artists create a liminal performance space which exists simultaneously in Saudi Arabia and the US, crossing borders and the limitations of the physical and geographical body. Small gestures are amplified through repetition and layering, conjuring up multi-faceted images of beauty. An atmospheric sound score and pre-recorded images add further texture to the live choreography. The artists’ fine-tuned sensitivity to the technology and each other’s practice creates a unique vision of an intimately and mysteriously connected world. Our Cup is Broken is a bold and visceral piece of live dance in a country where contemporary performance has yet to reach a wider audience.

Fernanda D’Agostino is an American artist and sculptor from Portland, Oregon. Her 30-year career includes works that “integrated personal, societal and environmental concerns” into public art installations. Her new media works frequently incorporate technically sophisticated interactive elements. D’Agostino was awarded a Bonnie Bronson Fellowship in 1995, a Flintridge Foundation Award for visual artists in 2002, and an Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship in 2016 among other honors. Monographs on D’Agostino’s work have been published twice by The Art Gym, Offering: An installation in 1989 and Method of Loci in 2013. Her work is held in the collections of the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Yellowstone Art Museum, and the Missoula Museum of the Arts.

Ronnie Karfiol is an Israeli-based media artist. She has studied at the Shenkar college of Art in Tel Aviv and Media Technology and Animation at the H.A.W. University Hamburg, Germany. Karfiol’s work focuses on new media techniques, often countering themes within the obscured borders of technology and humanity; and interrogating how new political, theological, and social structures form and thrive in these new portals of being. Her work has exhibited at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, the Nahum Guttman Museum, SPEKTRUM Berlin, Galleria R+ Poland & the Center of Contemporary Art (CCA) Tel Aviv, DocAviv, Print Screen, EMAF, and Currents New Media Festival. She is the recipient of Margaret & Sylvan Adams Prize for young Israeli artist, the Mifal HaPais Council for Arts, the Ministry of Culture Independent Artists’ grant, and the Rabinovich Foundation. Her works are part of the collections in both the Guttman Museum, and the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art.

Abracadabra is an animation work guiding the user through new methods of mummification as they are performed online by big data mammoths, such as social media providers and data agencies. The video follows an installation wizard, akin to a software installation, in which the performed ritual is that of mummificating not the physical body, but rather the spirit
which is enveloped within the vast amount of data collected throughout a user’s lifetime generated online data. Abracadabra is an ancient Hebrew spell, which literally means “To create as one speaks/To create with words”. It has been widely accepted since the Middle Ages as a powerful magical spell. In this context of mummification through data, the data – which is usually just code – is the new word of creation.

Laleh Mehran was born in Iran and relocated with her family to the United States at the start of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Mehran creates elaborate environments in digital and physical spaces focused on complex intersections between politics, religion, and science. Mehran received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in Electronic Time-Based Media. Her work has been shown individually and collaboratively in the USA and international venues including the ISEA, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, FILE, ACT Festival, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Mattress Factory Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, The Georgia Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, Denver Art Museum, Biennial of the Americas at the Contemporary Art Denver and Currents New Media Festival. She is currently a professor and the Director of Emergent Digital Practices at the University of Denver. Dominant Policy, transforms various international currencies into a mesmerizing kaleidoscope, evolving from abstraction to recognizable elements. The video considers decades of graphical change as monarchies reign, regimes fall, values fluctuate, and counterfeiting increases. Adding to the instabilities are collapses of economies rendering a country’s existing currency worthless yet with time collectors covet the forgotten and once again elevate its value and thus significance. In Dominant Policy, I treat the featured currency with the same significance, from the smallest to the unattainably large denominations, folding their inherent worth. Since their development, currencies have been based on complex systems dictating value and ultimately determining sociopolitical power. In an attempt to retain control over the definitions of physical currency, governments layer intricately patterned colors and lines, weave specialty papers with security threads and holograms, all while the majority of monetary value moves at light speed in the form of zeros and ones.