Technological innovation is often discussed in terms of disruption: transforming — or, in some cases, killing — old methods with new creations that promise to improve our way of life. But what if these same technologies were applied to cultural preservation?
That question is at the heart of Eyebeam fellow Morehshin Allahyari’s work. In October, lead reporter Tyler Woods caught up with the artist, who gave a pretty heady description of her work:
I’m creating an archive of dark goddesses and mythical female figures from the Middle East. The idea is that I’ll do one year of research and archiving and then create a project between that and fiction, like rewriting narratives from these old myths.
The idea is that through these acts of archiving and refiguring I’ll be able to take over the power of cultural heritage.
Since then, Allahyari has had an exhibit at Bushwick’s Transfer Gallery, co-authored a book on 3D printing and activism and been named a “global thinker” by Foreign Policy. In an interview with Ibraaz, an online magazine covering visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East, Allahyari, who grew up in Tehran, Iran, discussed her recent work. Several of her works, including Material Speculation: ISIS and She Who Sees the Unknown, which was shown at Transfer, use 3D printing as a method of archiving cultural artifacts.
One goal of Allahyari’s, as she stated in the interview, is to interrogate how both Western societies and theocratic regimes in the Middle East have misappropriated those artifacts.
The figures I will feature are from a mix of eras and traditions – pre- and post-Islamic. I’m taking them out of their context in order to create the space to build new stories around them. Collaging texts and reappropriating material, I want to create a counter-reality that is critical of both the Western technology industries and Islamic iconoclastic claims over heritage.
At Technical.ly, we’ve previously covered how technology practices can have surprising political implications, whether it’s determining how libraries are organized or what news you see on your social media feed. Allahyari is especially aware of them in her work. In the Ibraaz interview, she touched upon a wide variety of topics, including climate change outside the West and the pitfalls of corporate sponsorship of art. In short, it’s a thought-provoking read — perhaps even pregame material for a philosophy all-nighter at the Brooklyn Public Library.