The Laughing Snake: An Evening with Morehshin Allahyari and Ozlem Goner

Fri, Apr 21, 2023
6 pm

Floor 3, Theater

In The Laughing Snake, artist Morehshin Allahyari retells a fourteenth-century story from Kitab al-bulhan (Book of Wonders) in a digital project on artport. In the original tale, a snake-like woman takes over a city, killing animals and people until a reclusive old man comes forward to reignite hope with a revelation: the only way to kill the snake is to hold a mirror in front of her. When the snake sees her reflection, she starts laughing. She laughs for days and nights until she dies.

For this program, Allahyari performs her version of The Laughing Snake, a hypertext narrative connecting the myth to a semi-fictionalized account of the artist’s adolescence in Tehran. The work presents a series of personal and imagined stories exploring hysteria, street harassment, impositions of morality, and the experience of living in a female body in Iran. In Allahyari’s re-figuration of the story, the Laughing Snake’s laughter and death become positions of power, acts of agency over her own body and image.

Following the reading, Allahyari is joined by scholar Ozlem Goner for a conversation about Jin, Jiyan, Azadi (Woman Life Freedom) in the Kurdish Women’s Freedom Movement, from its formation in Bakur in the 1970s through the Rojava Revolution in 2012 to the ongoing women-led revolution in Iran today. Allahyari and Goner consider these events together to explore what we can learn from the Kurdish women’s struggles and fights for freedom and what transnational solidarity might look like. 

Morehshin Allahyari (Persian: موره شین اللهیاری‎) is a New York–based Iranian-Kurdish artist who uses 3D simulation, video, sculpture, and digital fabrication as tools to re-figure myth and history. Through archival practices and storytelling, her work weaves together complex counternarratives in opposition to the lasting influence of Western technological colonialism in the context of MENA (Middle East and North Africa). 

Ozlem Goner is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the College of Staten Island and Middle Eastern Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her book, Turkish National Identity and its Outsiders: Memories of State Violence in Dersim, was published by Routledge in 2017. She has written academic and popular journal articles on state violence, social movements, gender and intersectionality, and anti-colonial self-determination. She is a steering committee member of the Emergency Committee for Rojava.

The Susan and John Hess Family Theater is equipped with an induction loop and infrared assistive listening system. Accessible seating is available.

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