SLAM Presents New Multimedia Exhibition 'Currents 110: Mariam Ghani'

By Laura Schilli
In Culture

Running now until July 12 at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) is a presentation of video, sound and photographic installations titled “Currents 110: Mariam Ghani.” The show will feature work by Brooklyn-based artist Mariam Ghani, who is currently the artist-in-residence at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The City & The City": "Cotton Belt Freight Depot," 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Ryan Lee, New York © Mariam Ghani

“Cotton Belt Freight Depot,” 2015, from “The City and The City.” Courtesy of the
artist and Ryan Lee, New York © Mariam Ghani

Ghani collaborated with St. Louis native and choreographer, Erin Ellen Kelly, on their newest piece, “The City and the City.” This multimedia project, which began in the summer of 2014, explores the complicated history of St. Louis, highlighting that its socioeconomic division has not only grown, but become ignored. The film combines spoken narrative, musical score and dance performance and is loosely based on the novel “The City and the City,” by China Miéville. The novel depicts the story of the narrator, a dead man whose murder is investigated, connecting the “fundamental structures of the world which are first examined, then questioned and finally breached.”

The City & The City (excerpt) from Mariam Ghani on Vimeo.

In addition to the fictional storyline of the presentation, Ghani pulled in real-life St. Louis events, such as the those following the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014. Ghani has also spoken about how the performers who participated in the film have said “they definitely see their city as a divided city.” Not only is this project a perspective from the artist, but it is also a perspective from the local performers who are familiar with these areas.

“Something Mariam has said multiple times is this idea of circling around the truth,” says Lutz. “By circling around the truth you discover more and more things each time you view the video.”

In an interview with Eric Lutz, curator of prints, drawings and photographs at SLAM, Ghani said that “some of the locations were selected because they struck me or Erin as being St. Louis equivalents of what Miéville calls ‘dissensi’, or disputed zones, like the deconsecrated cathedral St. Liborius or the gutted Cotton Belt Freight Depot.”

Currents 110 also includes another recent film, “Like Water From Stone” (2014), which plays out on the southern coast of Norway. Interpretive dance performers move through the landscape to extract bodily experiences of water and stone. The location is set in a natural environment that was previously occupied by Nazi Germans troops during World War II and now is absorbed by the hazardous petroleum industry located there today.

Like Water From a Stone (excerpt) from Mariam Ghani on Vimeo.

Mariam Ghani is a Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellow at Washington University. The Freund Fellowship is for artists to teach for a two-month long period at Washington University while also working on an project exhibition at a museum. The fellowships promote the exhibition and the accomplishments of contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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