Ana Finel-Honigman "Stories in Song and Shadow: An Interview with Sahra Motalebi", ArtSlant, Aug 2014
Randy Kennedy, “A Sound, Then Silence (Try Not to Breathe)”, New York Times, Nov 2013
Sahra Motalebi & Colin Whitaker, “In Migration: The Art of Sahra Motalebi”, Interview Magazine Online, 2009
Ana Finel-Honigman & Sahra Motalebi, “Tender Mortal Means”, Dazed and Confused Online, 2009
Alex Hawgood “The Moment Blog /The Insider: Sahra Motalebi”, New York Times Online, 2008
David Chiu, “New P.S.1 Series Melds Live Performances, Sound and Visuals”, Queens Chronicle, 2008
Mike Wolf & John Schaefer, "Who's on Top and Who Should Be", NPR’s Soundcheck, Nov 2008
Matthew Schnipper, “GenF: Sahra Motalebi”, The Fader Issue 54, Sept 2008
“Featured Artist: Sahra Motalebi”, Other Music Online, February 2008
Sounds from Untitled Skies
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Performance, Crowley Theater, 8pm
Free and Open to the Community
In 2015, Marfa Live Arts premiered a new work by New York-based artist Sahra Motalebi. Sounds From Untitled Skies is a series of six musical landscape portraits for the stage. The 40 minute performance was held at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas on Saturday, April 25, 2015. The performance was free and open to the community.
After its Marfa premiere, Sounds From Untitled Skies travelled internationally including a live performance at The Hydra School Projects on the island of Hydra, Greece July 4th, 2015. Marfa Public Radio will interview Motalebi Thursday, April 23, 6:30pm (CST). David Weinstein of Clocktower Productions interviewed Motalebi on Clocktower Radio, this will run April 13-20, 2015. (Listen now) The entire performance' was presented live for radio broadcast on Clocktower Radio later in 2015.
Sahra Motalebi is a visual artist, composer and singer born in Birmingham Alabama, 1979. Her work has been performed and exhibited at SculptureCenter, New Museum of Contemporary Art, MoMA PS1, Gladstone Gallery, Museum Ludwig, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. She presented work in connection with Arts in Embassies for the US State Department with Mariah Robertson, and has also collaborated with artist Kai Althoff and performed with Antony Hegarty. She has contributed to many projects at the intersection of contemporary art, architecture and performance, including music direction for Yves Klein’s Monotone Silence Symphony presented by Dominique Lévy. In 2007 Motalebi founded Static Recital an independent media imprint on which she releases her studio albums and recording projects.
Motalebi studied classical vocal performance, visual art, and the history of art and architecture at Sarah Lawrence College. She attended the Masters of Architecture Program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture where she focused on the relationship of architecture and performance. She lives in New York.
Each scene in Sounds From Untitled Skies is based on a poem that presents a rendering of a place and time. These places include unmediated natural landscapes, both personal and historical scenarios in the form of a vocal performance and a video installation as a backdrop. Motalebi sings with a music stand adjacent to the videographic stage, at once both in and out of the stage’s frame, positioned as both a performer and a scenographic element simultaneously. The vocal and instrumental compositions in Sounds draw on classical European vocal music, Persian modal music and R&B, including abstract percussion, santur, choral sound-fields and rhythmic vocal beats, as well as harpsichord.
The song-cycle and the mechanisms of the staging employed in Sounds from Untitled Skies conjure up and re-represent the subjective processes implicated in the artist’s experience of each place itself: a spectral collision of memory, concept and fiction. Constructed as individual small-scale architectural maquettes - Motalebi’s stage sets reference the visual language of 18th century European paper architecture, contemporary photography and post-modern theater - these scenographic ‘places’ are captured as digital video and projected at human scale, absent of any human actors.
The connection of Sounds From Untitled Skies to Marfa itself is not insignificant. Bleached, the third scene in the piece, “draws on a composite of desert landscapes and experiences from my time living in the rural Southwest, including time in Marfa, from 2009 to 2012,” Motalebi says. The final scene, Diorama, also features a poem by Quinn Latimer from “Rumored Animals”, winner of the 2010 American Poetry Journal Book Prize; a visitor many times to the area, Latimer counts Donald Judd, among many artists, as inspiration in the book.
In keeping with Marfa Live Arts’ mission to support the community by offering educational programs at no cost to area schools, Motalebi visitedd with students at Marfa International School to speak about her work and a conduct workshop about listening to music, incorporating history from various musical traditions and singing techniques as they relate to contemporary music performance.
Sounds From Untitled Skies is supported by Permian Basin Area Foundation, public funds from the City of Marfa, and Marfa Live Arts supporters. In-kind support provided by Treaty Oak Distilling Co. Austin, TX. Special thanks to Jason Acton, Jessica Allen, Autotroph, Darren Bader, Alex Behnke, Melissa Bent, Big Bend Sentinel, Clocktower Productions & Clocktower Radio, Rob Crowley, Crowley Theater, Hydra School Projects, Danyel Ferrari, Cassie Griffin, Sabrina Dee, Jay Israelson, Quinn Latimer, Jessica Lutz, Marfa Public Radio, Mirabelle Marden, Alise Ninivaggi, Tom Poole, Times Sq., Red Bull Studios New York, Regime des Fleurs, Eliza Ryan, Ryan Schaefer, Cate Schrim, Linda & Don Shafer, Sahba Sizdahkhani, Sky Dancer Media, Static Recital, Gory Smelly, Minsun Sohn, Joshua Smith, Chris Tabron, Ellpetha Tsivicos, Joel Witenberg, Wendy Webster, Jordi Wheeler, Max Wolf.
This image is an outtake taken during the filming of the video backdrop for Scene 6, "Diorama", in which Motalebi is situating the scenographic elements on the stage. Photo by Minsun Sohn.
In this image Motalebi is working with the structure of the maquette for Scene 5, "Vault", meant to bring to mind sacred architecture. It is an outtake from the film shoot for the video backdrop featured in the piece. Photo by Minsun Sohn.