MFA candidate Essma Imady grew up in Damascus, Syria. She left to study art in the United States in 2011, a time when Syria was brimming with anticipation. It is now so destitute of hope that families are opting to try and escape in small fishing boats that they hope will carry them across the Mediterranean to anywhere else. In a world overwhelmed with political and economical strife, people all over the world attempt similar dangerous trips. Descent into Heaven pays tribute to the ones who never make it, in a short experimental film and installation that is up from March the 13th until March 27th.
Somehow I came across this video online, a young woman pleading her father for forgiveness before she is stoned to death by him, and a few other ISIS men. She was young, frail, and her accent sounded like mine. I was overwhelmed with how easily it could have been me in her place, a less advantageous birth was all it would have taken. I felt a sense of kinship with her; how even at the end she wanted to please her father, the way her screams happened at the back of her throat, an internalized pain. And the fact that she had (according to her captors) allowed her self to fall in love, and partake in a relationship, despite the stakes at hand. She was a people pleaser, someone who internalizes her pain, but can be controlled by her passion; she even had my accent.
I knew I had to make a piece of art about her, and for her. I saw her as the hero of the situation the lone carrier of passion and light in a dark and painful world. A saint.
At the end of the video of her brutal murder, a rock hits her head and her hair flows out of her scarf, the man filming blurs the picture. Thus I decided that I would represent her through the very thing they wished to hide of hers, but since I could not use her hair, I opted for the closest alternative; my own hair. out my hair i made a string or prayer (or worry) beads. Thus the private and intimate collided once more with the religious and codified. Other then hair I used gold leaf, to symbolize her saintliness, and the artificiality of the ‘holiness’ of this killing. I coated the rock that had been the weapon in her murder with this gold leaf, it symbolized both the artificially holy; the murder, and the truly holy; her blood.
The female bodies’ presence within certain spaces obtains a radical quality, her entrance into male dominated fields, shrines, and spaces challenges the foundations upon which these places are built.
What would it mean for a woman to enter the space of revelation? To colonize the very moment of formation of religion?
I created three abstract shorts that speak to three pivotal moments within the Abrahamic traditions, moments of burden and salvation and pain.
Moses at the bush.
Jesus at the cross.
Muhammad in the cave.
This female body is one of this age, it does not try to be what it is not, she is aware of her awkwardness within these moments. But she also is a powerful presence; she controls the revelations, commanding their beginning and end. Choosing to place herself in this position, choosing this reclamation. This is in contrast to the original moments which narrate a lack of power and control, and even a lack of choice.
And it is one person here who experiences all three moments, within this harmonizing of multiples is a strength and power.
“How do you represent the un-representable due to over exposer or lack of exposure? How do you represent that which has been drained of meaning, misrepresented to the point of over saturation, yet underappreciated and neglected to the point of absurdity? Is it even futile to attempt such an endeavor… Maybe, it is advisable, perhaps not.” -Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art
my friend- an amazingly talented painter (check out her work here instagram.com/azilyesrod/) had a conversation with me about her dislike of silence. as a tribute to her beautiful painting (that appears in this short video) and to my own fear of loud noises; as a result of hearing bombs falling on my war torn country, I made this short video.