the opening of the warp & weft [ face to face ] at @roco137 was all about community. and the rochester community did not disappoint. so many people i love gathered in one space to listen to and connect with an archive of stories in all its splendid human diversity. thank u rochester <3 more pictures on instagram @mara__ahmed
Erica Bryant: Deep in the pandemic, Rajesh and I got an email from the great artist Mara Ahmed asking us each to write a story about what we were experiencing and to send her a recording of it. She wanted to capture the year in an oral storytelling project, an alternative communal tapestry, woven with words in diverse languages, from diverse people across the globe.
That was September 2020. In 2021, Mara published The Warp and Weft stories in an online archive that could be accessed while we were all separated because of the virus. Today, thank God, we can gather again. And The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] will open in person at Rochester Contemporary Art Center tonight, April 1, from 6-9 p.m. Mara will speak about her work at 6:30.
The pandemic stories that Mara collected from people from Pakistan to Belgium to Brighton, NY, will be heard in the gallery, set against a beautiful projection of the speakers’ portraits, like those you see below, that was made by Rajesh.
My story is about George Floyd and my great grandfather.
Rajesh’s is about isolation, introspection and extrospection.
You can hear our stories and the others at ROCO, 137 East Ave. Or online. The exhibition at RoCo will be open through May 7.
Languages other than English are rich and beautiful! Expand your mind and world.
Repost from Rochester Contemporary Art Center:
When you visit The Warp & Weft [ Face to Face ] you will see and hear stories in Arabic, Bosnian, French, Hindi, Kashmiri, Spanish and Urdu. The Warp & Weft archive preferences each storyteller’s native language. While English translations will be available online and at arm’s length at the gallery, we’re excited to offer visitors an experience with languages they may not understand but whose sounds and script might invite them to learn more.
Excerpt from story by Surbhi Dewan featured in The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] opening April 1. #SoundOn
I will be speaking at the opening on April 1st at 630pm! Exhibition opens at 6pm at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave, Rochester. . Repost from @roco137:
Meet @mara__ahmed, the curator of The Warp & Weft archive!
Mara is an interdisciplinary artist, activist filmmaker, and founder of production company #NeelumFilms. She was born in Lahore, Pakistan and educated in Belgium, Pakistan, and the United States. Her work has been exhibited at galleries in New York and California, and her documentaries have been broadcast on @pbs and screened at international film festivals.
Mara is interested in dialogue across both physical and psychological boundaries. In 2017, she gave a Gara talk about the meaning of borders and nationalism entitled “The edges that blur.” Her first film, The Muslims I Know, premiered at the @eastmanmuseum, in 2008 and started a dialogue between American Muslims and people of other faiths. After this, Mara released her second film, Pakistan One on One (2011), and a third, A Thin Wall (2015), which premiered at the @bradfordlitfest, won a Special Jury Prize atthe Amsterdam Film Festival, and was acquired by @mubiindia.
Mara is currently working on The Injured Body, a film about racism in America, focusing exclusively on the voices of women of color.
The Warp & Weft [ Face to Face ], the physical rendition of Mara’s online audio archive, opens at RoCo on First Friday April 1 and continues through May 7. Read more on our website.
i watched a wonderful film last night: ‘winter sleep’ by nuri bilge ceylan, one of my favorite directors. it’s 3 hours long but one doesn’t get bored for a second. there are so many unforgettable scenes with uncontrived yet constantly engaging talk, their intimacy and small, fleshed-out details contrasted with the vastness and breathtaking beauty of snow-covered cappadocia, a region where houses are carved into rock.
the cinematography is gorgeous, as always (watch ‘once upon a time in anatolia’), the acting seamless. as justin chang said in his excellent review: ‘the supreme visual achievement of “winter sleep” may well be the beauty it finds in the crags and contours of its actors’ marvelously expressive faces.’
ceylan is a genius. the subtlety with which he paints places and people, the way he lights a room, the easy exchange between characters where the difference in their social status or the years of conflict and bitterness between them begin to surface ever so gently.
he co-wrote the script with his wife ebru ceylan. it’s a character study inspired by chekhov’s short story, “the wife’” and one of the subplots in dostoyevsky’s “the brothers karamazov”. justin chang: ‘what’s remarkable is the manner in which the script steers away from run-of-the-mill plot mechanics in favor of a more revealing and no less absorbing immersion in the conversations — long, glorious, generously overflowing, superbly sculpted and acted conversations’.
and then there’s schubert’s piano sonata no. 20, the only music played in the film, just a few times. perfection. it fills one with muted sadness and seemed to connect back to something. so i researched. one of the reviews mentioned it was a nod to bresson’s ‘au hasard balthazar,’ one of the saddest and most beautiful films i’ve ever seen.
so much fun with my friend arseniy in brooklyn, where we checked out a terrific exhibition at the brooklyn museum. more about the exhibition and artist soon, but roc friends, spring is here, come and hang out with me in nyc <3
On April 21st at 6pm EST, join Rochester Contemporary Art Center for a virtual conversation with The Warp & Weft writers, artists and activists. They will share their reflections about 2020 and the inspiration/process behind their stories. Together they will help highlight the importance of archiving diverse voices and the crucial role storytelling can play in times of uncertainty and upheaval.
Our speakers will connect with us from Gaza (Palestine), the Gambia, Ireland, Oakland (California), Rochester (New York) and Long Island. Registration is necessary. Pls register at the RoCo website.
Speakers (in alphabetical order):
Ashwaq Abualoof Darien Lamen Deema K. Shehabi Erica Bryant Ian Layton Kaddijatou Fatty Karen Faris Quajay Donnell Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp Selena Fleming Zoë Lawlor
In 2020 and later in early 2021, I was honored to work with an international group of truth-tellers, writers, poets, artists and activists who shared their personal stories and reflections. We built a multilingual archive together called the Warp & Weft, because it wove the threads of our thoughts and emotions together. Now a year later, the Warp & Weft [Face to Face] is coming to Rochester Contemporary Art Center as a multimedia exhibition. It opens on April 1st with an artist’s talk at 6:30pm. You will be able to meet some of the brilliant storytellers at a Zoom event on April 21st starting at 6pm. And you will have a chance to see the exhibition at RoCo until May 7th. This is beyond exciting – I hope that you can join us!
‘Visit The Warp & Weft [Face to Face] at RoCo and immerse yourself in a colorful tapestry of stories. You can social distance, yet walk through the material expression of the archive and experience the beauty of human ideas and kinship.’
Thank you Bleu Cease, Rajesh Barnabas, and the RoCo team for all the hard work in bringing this project to life.
‘I have been lucky so far. I have not lost anyone in my immediate family, although I have lost most of my aunts and uncles – my parents’ siblings. Living in the U.S., away from extended family, it is difficult to mourn loved ones back in Pakistan and make such losses real. It’s like being in a state of suspension – unmoored and unsubstantial. Like you, I have lost cities, continents, friends, homes, communities, and languages. Always there is this ache in one’s heart. A sorrowful mourning. Recently, I lost Rochester, New York, a city I knew and loved for 18 years. A city where my kids grew up and where I became an activist filmmaker.’
From Lost or Found, my collab with art historian Claudia Pretelin, published in Mason Street Literary Magazine.
So proud of this beautiful conversation and exchange of memories, places, languages and photographs between myself and my dearest friend Claudia Pretelin (an accomplished art historian). Thank you to Kathleen Kern for her editing support and to Celeste Schantz for publishing this gorgeous issue. Always an honor to work with brilliant women <3
‘The following is a portion of the correspondence between Mara Ahmed and Claudia Pretelin. Ahmed is an interdisciplinary artist and activist filmmaker based on Long Island, New York. Claudia is an art historian, independent researcher, and arts administrator based in Los Angeles, California. The two women collaborated on several projects, starting with Current Seen, Rochester’s biennial for contemporary art. In 2020, Claudia interviewed Ahmed for Instruments of Memory, a site she curates and which documents conversations with women in the arts. As a response, Ahmed decided to interview Pretelin about her work, but in the form of a dialogue about art, memory, language, and becoming. They hope to continue this conversation over the years and capture the continuing shifts in their lives and work. Their correspondence is a collage of text, images, and references both literary and cultural. It is intimate and global, straddling distances between Mexico, Pakistan, Belgium and the US.‘
what a fabulous day! art and life talk with two brilliant artist friends with whom i had coffee and then iranian food, long convos about arabic and urdu poetry and iraqi mannasama (“manna from heaven”) with a family i love, some spicy vegetable soup and a tour of her new home with another dear friend, and finally late night catching up over hot chocolate with two beautiful women i love and admire. heaven <3
i was in rochester from march 30-april 2nd. more pictures and details on instagram @mara__ahmed
joel coen’s ‘the tragedy of macbeth’ is stunning. i will take a risk and say that i love how americans do shakespeare, at least on film. there is something earthy and unpretentious, something instinctually physical and meaty in how it’s performed and collated. the mise en scene, art direction, and cinematography usually fit like a glove. i am thinking of two films in particular: julie taymor’s ‘titus’ and now this new take on macbeth.
part horror film, part psychological thriller beset with political intrigue, macbeth straddles many dimensions. it’s a topsy turvy world where ‘fair is foul, and foul is fair.’ coen creates this backdrop in black and white, with the distorted perspective, enclosed spaces and illusory beauty of an MC escher print.
the audio visual construction of the film is spot on. as isaac butler describes: ‘the circling crows. the fog out of which characters emerge. the ominous strings of carter burwell’s score. the dripping and knocking and pounding. these fragments remain, like the shards of a dream, one you’re happy to have awakened from but also long to return to, so you can discover what profundities lie within.’
the acting is top-notch throughout the film, but i want to write about denzel washington, one of the most effortless AND sophisticated, subtle AND volcanic actors in the world. he plays macbeth as an older, world-weary man such that lines like ‘it is a tale/ told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ signifying nothing’ make a lot of sense. his voice smooth and placid like velvet contrasts vividly with his descent into tyranny, madness, and then despair. a wonderfully dialed down, textured performance.
this is what i love about shakespeare in an american accent. there is an ease to it, a visceral understanding and physicality. and absolutely no need for telegraphing too much.
lunch with the brilliant karen faris whose incredibly creative, multilayered, textured work speaks to me personally. and then at roco to see erica bryant’s whimsical collages that capture the free association and complex patchwork nature of dreams. arseniy and i were lucky to get a private tour. a must-see, rochester peeps!
finished reading ‘south of the border, west of the sun’ last night, my second book by haruki murakami. i’ve also read ‘norwegian wood’ which my daughter and i agreed was uncomfortably cringy on account of the graphic, borderline pushy sex the male narrator has with women who are mentally and emotionally fragile, depressed or broken. it reads like abuse.
‘south of the border’ follows the same pattern in that the female characters are poorly drawn. they are tragic victims of hormone-driven male misadventures and blend inelegantly into background noise, or they’re mysterious sex goddesses dedicated to male pleasure in its oddest configurations (they disappear soon after the male narrator has climaxed), or they are the good girlfriends and wives who endure unimaginable pain and humiliation but remain devoted to whatever relationship the male narrator can manage.
according to katarina kio, murakami’s work is ‘incredibly gendered’: ‘The perniciousness of… women as “mediums” becomes evident in Murakami’s novels. Women in his work are often constructed as solely vessels for the self-actualisation of men. One-dimensional female characters orbit around existentially challenged male leads, experiencing relatively little character development of their own.’
murakami is not alone. sex, its depiction and language, and the power dynamics it inscribes are equally unsettling in other universally admired writers such as gabriel garcia marquez, v. s. naipaul, philip roth and michel houellebecq.
they make me feel like i’ve stepped into an outdated, highly misogynistic male fantasy. it’s alienating and unpleasant. makes me realize how grateful i am for writers like elena ferrante whose work i devoured as soon as it became known to the english-speaking world. it was like stepping into another dimension. a place were women were central and in focus, where their thoughts, desires and relationships could begin to be articulated and made real, where they were flesh and blood rather than hollow specters subservient to the quirks of male psychology and anatomy.
to women writers and an alternative literary canon.