MONIKA WEISS, WRATH (2015)
Wrath (Canto 1, Canto 2, Canto 3) is a poignant ritualistic contemplation on all kinds of violence whose gendered association of wounded female and urban bodies resonates with the contemporary refugee crisis in Greece. Its conception, however, harkens back to an unrealized all-women performance inspired by the Arab Spring, while its realization was triggered by an encounter with a female Iranian architect and practicing Muslim, temporarily living in the US, in 2014. Part of the multimedia series Shrouds, the video foregrounds a signature performative device in Monika Weiss’ recent work—lamentation—as a powerfully political, yet fundamentally ethical means to deal with personal, gendered and collective trauma by “dignifying and veiling it with anonymity,” in the artist’s words.
Wrath is a tripartite film and sound composition set in three movements. The silent Canto 1 begins with the nearly motionless specter of the architect conflated with a map of her hometown, Tehran. The “bodies” of the girl and the city are stamped with Weiss’s textual response to a violent incident that she recalled during a conversation with the artist in her studio. In Canto 2, the architect performs silent, nearly motionless gestures of lamentation choreographed by the artist. The haunting splitting of her body, peeling herself from her scarf while veiling and unveiling herself, is accompanied by the vocal performance of a recombination of the text of Canto 1 in Farsi (Persian) by the voice of another woman. Evocative of the girl’s experience of Tehran when she irreverently ran through its streets without her scarf after having been hit by her husband, “unveiling” highlights the vulnerability of the female body in urban space. A piano improvisation by the artist, who is also a classically trained musician, dramatizes the abstract graphic quality of Canto 3, sensuously merging the asphyxiated veiled body of the architect with the folds of a rippling shroud in an intricate audiovisual poetic response to her story, Weiss’s ultimate artistic lament”.
– Kalliopi Minioudaki, co-curator of Fireflies in the Night Take Wing, an international video art survey for the opening of
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center designed by Renzo Piano in Athens, Greece, June 2016
“The image is of a young woman architect from Iran, whom I filmed in my studio in New York. Sound and text in this work are my musical and textual response inspired by our conversation. I invited her to perform silent, nearly motionless gestures of lamentation by gradually removing her black head-scarf. This act evoked a memory of another time, in Tehran, when she took off her scarf and rushed through the city bareheaded, free, if only for that moment. My short poetic film is a record of the encounter but also a further musical, visual and textual exploration of fragile and conflicting relationships between women’s bodies and cities, acts of veiling and exposure, and structures of power and history.
History in my work is shown from the collective viewpoint of the marginalized, oppressed, forgotten, erased, disappeared or destroyed. I work with traces, remnants, after-histories, post-memories, archives, fragments. Not being an actual witness or a proper survivor, I invite others to inhabit my films, sound compositions and performances to join me in the space of lamentation, understood as a political gesture. Lament is possibly the oldest known form of music and poetry. In Wrath my protagonist remains nameless yet is powerfully present. Her memory becomes our shared memory. My work relies on poetry and beauty as a form of language containing a possibility towards political, social and ethical transformation.”
- Monika Weiss, Notes on Wrath, 2015