Borrowing Authority From Death
October 7, 2021
4pm indoor ritual live stream via The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art @leslielohmanmuseum and SWANA-NYC @swananyc Instagram,
5pm meet for reflective walk at The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, 26 Wooster Street, Soho to Battery Park, via 9/11 monument
Please note that the ritual portion inside the Museum will only be viewable via IG live
October 7, 2021, will be 20 years after the first bombs were dropped on Afghanistan, starting the “War on Terror”. Artist Amitis Motevalli will reflect on the toll the reaction the United States has taken to the horrific attack and massacres on September 11, 2001, not only in the regions invaded, but how the globe has changed as a result of 20 years of war. As a healing, the ritual/performance is for a day of mourning dedicated to those who have borne the brunt of the 9/11 attacks, those killed on 9/11, those killed in the wars. The performance will begin with a pain ritual to bear the weight of the day starting indoors at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, with musicians playing while preparing needle piercings on the artist’s back. The artist will be wearing a sculptural altar called an “alam” from Shia and Sufi rituals during the walking performance. While the procession will begin solo, anyone who wishes to join in a silent reflective walk on the street is welcome. The reflective walk will head south on Broadway to the footprint of the Twin Towers, down Washington Street through Little Syria into Battery Park.
Of the many components of the ritual, the act of walking, looking, reflecting is pivotal. The title, “Borrowing Authority from Death” is from a passage of “Illuminations'' by Walter Benjamin. The performance shares the spirit of walking reflections like Benjamin to access and grieve the devastation and atrocities of war, to feel under our feet, in our bodies in the most humble way the difficulty of escaping violence, hunger and turmoil, allowing processing rather than vengeance. The journey is also inspired by Farid Ud-din Attar’s Conference of the Birds, with a quote from the walking altar, seeking wisdom.
The walking path passes through numerous burial grounds that were quickly built over for commerce, like the World Trade Center. The ritual is dedicated to all who had to pay for the horrific devastation on 9/11/2001. The performance will in particular honor the people often left out of the narrative; women, girls, femmes, queers and gender non-binary people killed in lands under the bombs or on their journey to flee since the start of the war in Afghanistan, then Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, bleeding into the diasporas. It’s also a dedication to all of us who have borne the burden of the attacks on New York City through blame and discrimination, legally or informally, even as we were horrified and mourned the atrocities.
About the artist Amitis Motevalli
Amitis Motevalli is an artist born in Iran. She explores the cultural resistance and survival of people living in poverty, conflict and war. Through many mediums including, sculpture, video, performance and collaborative public art. Her work juxtaposes iconography with iconoclasm, asking questions about violence, power and historical canons. She is equally known for her work in Educational Justice, working with youth and communities to gain equal access to civil rights, privacy and pedagogy without profiling. Motevalli is invested in research, collaboration, and the potential of art to expand thought. For her current project, Motevalli is working internationally with a broad spectrum of transnational Muslims in order to research what defines home, life and labor in the urgency of survival. She is particularly concerned with discursive work with Women, Girls, Femme and Queer Muslims who come from places of political and religious conflict and collaborating on public art projects. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, exhibiting art internationally.