Raheleh Filsoofi - "Say Their Names (Against Oblivion)" 2023, Varied, Media: Mixed Media, Firing Process: Electric, Low-fire, Oxidation, Surface: Unglazed At the recent NCECA 2023 conference in Ohio, I recited the names of over 500 protestors and civilians who were killed during the recent uprising in Iran. I memorized their names, using my body as a cradle of remembrance to keep their spirits alive. However, as my body is fragile and ephemeral, I found solace in a clay vessel, a microcosm that not only stored my fury and grief but also offered refuge while I created a space for an aural archive. The vessel's spirit will hold the names of lost lives for future generations to hear and remember, preserving them forever.
Raheleh Filsoofi - "Bite" 2021, Varied, Media: Earthenware / Terracotta, Mixed Media, Firing Process: Electric, Low-fire, Mid-range, Oxidation, Surface: Engobe / Slip / Underglaze I draw inspiration from Islamic art and indigenous rituals for this artwork. I bite into plates I created from clay sourced across the US. Biting deep into the plates is a tactile approach to establishing my identity as a Middle Eastern woman. With this act, I unearth the buried histories to transcend colonial narratives within clay particles and artifacts. I use my body as a tool to imprint its unique mark on clay with respect to past knowledge and values. Both labor and ritual, the physicality of the action provokes attention to the internal. Form, pattern, and function captured as I sink my teeth into the clay, an artifact from when my body and spirit were borderless, an act of defiance and affirmation. Bite…to leave a mark of existence. Bite…to change the narrative. Bite…to become the narrative.
Raheleh Filsoofi - "A Transient's Paradox – Ongoing" Ongoing since 2022, 10'X12'X12', Media: Mixed Media, Wild Clay/Raw Clay, Firing Process: Electric, High-fire, Low-fire, Mid-range, Oxidation, Surface: Unglazed After receiving my citizenship in 2015, sound became a celebration of freedom of movement. However, the 2018 Muslim travel ban replaced my exuberance with anxiety. I began collecting soil to capture a place's essence beyond its ephemerality. Each ceramic vessel in the installation is made of clay from a different state, and the sound of the same place is emanating from the vessel I have made from it. Just as sound is drawn from the air, clay is drawn from the soil. The earth holds answers waiting to be unearthed. Through the medium of clay and sound, I explore a place's past and present. The installation consists of over 50 ceramic vessels, with 25 pieces recently exhibited. Each vessel represents both an estranged and a promised land. With this project, I aim to travel not to find, but to lose myself – to become a body among thousands, a body in action and motion, pursuing my identity as a traveler while challenging the dominant narrative of exploration and exploitation in the history of the East and West. The installation also includes a video that takes the viewer on a journey, showing the process of soil collection and clay isolation.
Raheleh Filsoofi - "The Inh(a/i)bited Space" 2018, 4 1/2'X 18'X 6 1/2', Media: Mixed Media, Firing Process: Electric, Low-fire, Oxidation, Surface: Engobe / Slip / Underglaze, Unglazed For The Inh(a/i)bited Space, I selected sounds from audio files collected between 2016-2018 across over 1900 locations during my travels in the United States, Iran, and places in-between. Through this work, I invite the viewer to delve into my personal recollections of senses, sound, and space. My handmade vessels of memory, which present site-specific soundbites, confront the paradox of inhibited and inhabited space in the wake of socio-political immigration policies. The vessels with wires leading from one to the other, like the rhizomatous structure, collectively perform a symphony of melodic and ambient sound. The installation disrupts the viewer’s sense of utopia with the rhetoric of the Muslim travel ban and its progeny: disorientation, anxiety, and psychological displacement.
Raheleh Filsoofi - “One Thousand and One Pain" Mixed Media; Ceramic Objects (wheel thrown terra cotta, unglazed), and Human Hair, 2017, 28" x 47" x 12"
My artistic practice is rooted in the history and philosophy of Middle Eastern travelers and scholars such as Ibn Battuta and Saadi Shiraz, who shared their experiences and observations of unfamiliar areas to create critical narratives about identity, humanity, and communality.
My work also draws on Western travelers who have been associated with the colonial narrative, primarily due to their journeys aimed at claiming resources from other cultures. Despite the impact and legacies attributed to them, I critically address the implications of this practice in my work.
Over the past decade, I have traversed across continents, navigated between cultures, and observed the effects of political and social stagnation and extremism associated with immigration policies and social injustice. As an Iranian-American woman, my own experience as an immigrant has deeply influenced my artistic philosophy, and I am driven to produce work that challenges current perspectives on politics, society, nature, and culture. To achieve this goal, I experiment with different aesthetic strategies and incorporate various media and materials with wide-ranging applications to my subject matter.
My multimedia installations and performances provide layered, multi-dimensional experiences aimed at reimagining a world in which the divisions between places and cultures collapse, coalesce, and invite the viewer to journey physically and psychically beyond their territorial entrapments.
Clay and sound are the nexus from which most of my ideas emanate. They are cryptic, architectural, and the space where the holistic sensory experiences engender new and critical narratives. Crossing the physical and temporal territories of clay and sound to explore the potentiality of each medium disrupts and circumvents the borders of cohabited spaces and expands them to a more inclusive world where the universal, yet autochthonous nature of clay, the mélange of immersive sound experiences, and the myriad conceptions of the world intersect to illuminate and challenge policies and politics in a quest for a common wisdom. As such, I traverse and draw inspiration from experiential, geographical, temporal, disciplinary, and conceptual spheres, seeking to enrich and embody these diverse experiences.
Her current and recent exhibitions include Imagined Boundaries, an interactive multimedia installation at Gibbes Museum in Charleston, SC (2023-2024), and Only Sound Remains, an interactive multimedia installation at the Sharjah Biennial 15, Thinking Historically in the Present in Sharjah, UAE (2023).
Raheleh is the 2023 recipient of Joan Mitchell Fellowship award, 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 and holds the secondary appointment at the Blair School of Music. She received her M.F.A. in Fine Arts from Florida Atlantic University and a B.F.A. in Ceramics from Al-Zahra University in Tehran, Iran.