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Critical Practice

Sara Sarshar

(I often think about where I am from and what I am: alienated—I am grounded. I am grounded within my alien self— I have come to accept it.)

Sara Sarshar is an artist and researcher, born on the moon, engaging with the question of representation in relation to violence. Specifically focusing on the foreclosed nature of “speech acts” and acts of collective remembering post-trauma. Exploring the legal status of voice and memory within violence, the work of Sarshar, encapsulates a monument of absent speech— morphing into the the very speech act we long for. 

Her practice focuses on creating a sensorial experience through multidisciplinary installations engaging in using the installations she makes as the “speech act”. She often engages with a range of disciplines ranging from making sculptures, to making soundscapes, video, mechanics and poetry. 


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Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Critical Practice

Breathing

Slow breaths in and out

It is becoming

Becoming a mirror of our thoughts

Unexpected subject matter and ambiguity unfolds through both its familiar and unfamiliar forms. Often, initially, a moment of visual pleasure is reached through its colours, textures and familiarity of the human figure (an icon); at a second glance the uncanniness of the work unravels- bringing to the surface a tension between what we know and what may be considered unknowable. 

Often I aim to include disguised metaphors and symbols in the work. Such metaphors concern themselves with societal structures, how silence can contribute to violence: how when we fail to speak out for fear of breaking taboos, we enable violent circumstances to continue.

The fractured figures, repetitively present in my work, represent how shamelessly we have failed to create a discourse on violence. This discourse, however, is still possible; and it is possible to create “speech acts” on transgression. A portrayal of how our social structure is not intransigent, such aims are bridged with formal qualities of my work. 

I have experimented with creating spaces in which my installations play with human senses through sound, lighting, scent and space. Although the rooms and spaces I create are closed and intimate—qualities which we might align with secrecy—it is secrecy that I hope these spaces are able to deconstruct. The work should allow the audience to question themselves and their thoughts in relation to the installation.

Through an altered space, the green, red, blue, pink— the room becomes a cascade for evolving realms. These tones circulate in our blood, the spaces are experienced through us.

The speech acts succeed through us.

These spaces become an act of resistance through their existence. 

The ambiguity of the work acts as a mirror for the viewer. The experience of my work is aimed to create an internal dialogue which states, wait, stop, there is something to be seen, it is personal, it is political, it is open: an invitation to hallucinate. The internal dialogue is left open for the viewer to determine.

Through this engagement with an audience, my work serves as a form of activism. Activism is reached through the dialogue which occurs after the initial attempts of thought, through discussion, through emotion, through experience. Drawing from Philosopher and Art Historian, Georges Didi-Huberman (in Images in spite of all), Sarshar uses the following quote in a sanctified manner: “…Indeed, it is for this entity that the unimaginable becomes so necessary.” The unimaginable here refers to taboo, violence and the unrepresentable. Huberman continues, “It is for this entity that the unimaginable becomes absolute, knows no exceptions, ultimately extends its tyranny to the 'unrepresentable',… 'invisible' and the 'impossible'…in spite of all attempted to name the act of producing these images-an act of resistance…”.



Three Dreams, Unutterable Unknowing — A durational installation shown through virtual realms.

I’d like to begin by introducing my installation and the sculptures I have made as living entities— sacralised and ancestral beings. Through an altered space, the green, red, blue, pink— the room becomes a cascade for evolving realms. These tones circulate in our blood, the spaces are experienced through us. The speech acts succeed through us. These spaces become an act of resistance through their existence. 

Our human body begins to merge with these beings through our interaction, we slowly realise ourselves within this installation, is it becoming the mirror of our own thoughts?

I believe it cannot exist without us, but it is alive, a living entity. Thus, these intelligible beings (this installation), are made to speak—interrupt silence. The repetitive “speech acts”, however most definitely do challenge semiotic rule and accepted truths. "Three Dreams, Unutterable Unknowing" as witness, divulges between “evidence of the event” and “event of evidence”.

Truths that are unspoken—or unspeakable—in trying to articulate themselves, memory study must remain as dynamic as memory under the effects of trauma. The rhizomatic routes as past events recalled and represented (between variations of forms, media and contexts) can be concealed within the realms of remembering whether collectively or independently. Remnants, objects or images, can be useful for purposes of remembrance—generating a transmission of memory. Roland Barthes, literary theorist and expert in semiotics writes that, “while some remnants merely give information about the past (Barthes terms the studium) others prick and wound and grab and puncture, like the punctum, unsettling assumptions, exposing the unexpected, suggesting what Barthes describes as a “subtle beyond” or the “blind field” (the imagination needed beyond the image, object or remnant).

“Three Dreams, Unutterable Unknowing” consists of three sculptures: an interactive rope waiting to be pulled from the mouth of an armoured head, a fist rising from ashes—made from ashes dancing in a mechanical sense being exerting itself through a weapon and the mouth of a head also made from ashes, a fragile head layered through with rope and glass wax, three boxes, two sketchbooks, a projection.


Medium:

Glass Wax, Steel, Bronze, Ashes & Synthetic Plaster, Wood, Sound

Size:

Space: 600x300cm

Installation View

Detail- 110x100x85 cm

Installation View

Detail- 100x72x110 cm

The work becomes an utterance and form of speech impossible to fully understand. A form of remembering that which we have not directly witnessed or experienced. A relic, defined as: objects surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest, an installation of reverence. An installation as a revenant of a dismembered past.

Unutterable, only a knifed tongue to stare at, a tug of war. 

A secret clasped my mouth shut, and tied my tongue, I swallowed it. 

Enough, transgression.

We must halt, move back to the event itself. 

How will we watch, will we remember?

Direct witnessing falls far from the concern of memory, reliability and exact details of the violent event. Rather than attempting to locate the exact memory, my work aims to explore a semiotic system which moves beyond solely direct, reliable, detailed testimony. It aims to explore the very conscious disconnectedness, not remembering, and concept of silence as modes of testimony in relation to violence and its depth. I aim to return the violated body, the lost voice, repressed desires and emphasise the very need to heal our flesh and pained body through modes of representation, thus the breakage of silence (with use of formal qualities). 

Unutterable Unknowing is a journey, a semiotic journey towards finding a recreational for for the unrepresentable.

Unrepresentable— because it is stigmatised, taboo— unspeakable in our social structure.


Medium:

Glass Wax, Steel, Bronze, Ashes & Synthetic Plaster, Wood, Paper

Size:

Space: 600x300cm
The Umbilical Cord of the Dream

can you hear my song. My attempt.

Paradox-

a double politic- globally dialectical- a confrontation

between labour of thought and nihilism confrontation: empty present hand undo accepted doctrine

darkness refers to how the unspeakable is referred to how do we speak truth to power?

Consolation

the comfort received after the unspeakable tears

struggle ritual

draw from reality draw from dreams where is your voice? solidify the ritual.

A tongue tied so firmly- is it bleeding? its dripping

is it sweat?

The tragedy is silence-

don’t you see- maybe if we were heard maybe if you listened

maybe

Do your lips shake- when you sew my lips together. Does it make your head spin.

profound unconscious communication

dream dream

dream of justice


Medium:

Synthetic Plaster with Pigment, Wood, Rope, Sound

Size:

Sculpture: 180x40x15 cm
CollectiveInstallationThe Body And The Objecttransgenerational memory

Installation View

Sculpture Detail

Sculpture

Sculpture Detail

Sketch

Sketch

Consolation

the comfort received after the unspeakable

ritual

draw from reality draw from dreams where is your voice? solidify the ritual.

are you listening? are you learning? are you unlearning? yes yes

you

you with your power 

How does make you feel? Do you feel? Do you laugh? Do you think?

Does it make you happy?

Are you happy.

Do your lips shake- when you sew my lips together. Does it make your head spin.

Let the flowers begging you - let them breathe- let them bloom,

alright.

A subversive use of language. What does it take- to speak an attempt at

disobedience

altering.

bring about change. I have nowhere to go but inside profound unconscious communication

dream dream

dream of justice

free.

“The umbilical cord of the dream”, taboo and the representation of the unrepresentable. The saying “tongue tied”, is imagined here in rope. Though this work and phrase are very open to different interpretations. Through my work, I have been repetitively experimenting with the form of the umbilical cord through the use of rope and tubes. Originally, this idea was born through the idea of unspeakable violence and taboo, hence the reference to tongues and silence. I have since questioned how one represents the unthinkable or unspeakable. The rope of the tied tongue has de-assembled from the mouth and the human figure is fighting against this conception of silence. The silence is set free, free from the unconscious. The umbilical cord, rope, tongue, is free to dream, is free to breathe is free to speak.


Medium:

Synthetic Plaster with Pigment, Wood, Rope, Sound

Size:

Sculpture: 180x40x15 cm

Haleh Gallery

Website:

http://www.haleh-gallery.com/gallery/

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