Dec 29, 2016 | By Julia

In stark contrast to the Westernized corporate culture so often seen in the additive manufacturing industry, Iranian-American artist Morehshin Allahyari creates 3D printed pieces of forgotten goddesses, or jinns, from Middle Eastern mythology. Striking statues and glimmering talismans illuminate the nooks and crannies of her solo exhibition at Brooklyn gallery TRANSFER, as part of an ongoing artist residency at the art-meets-tech organization Eyebeam.

"Huma and Talismans" by Morehshin Allahyari

Unlike iconized figures such as Athena and Isis, Allahyari’s goddesses recall sinister, lesser-known deities of the Arabic cannon. Smiling maternal images are nowhere to be found in the exhibition “She Who Sees the Unknown.”

“I’m not interested in the motherly goddesses,” explains Allahyari. “I’m only interested in the dark ones and the monstrous ones; and the cruelty of each of their powers that will take over something.”

As an Iranian born artist who lives and works in the US, Allahyari is keenly aware of the power imbalances between men and women, and East and West. Her work speaks candidly to these dynamics, as well as the personal experiences of being an immigrant and a minority in today’s culture.

Take the jinn Huma, for example: a three-headed demon who possesses humans and causes fevers. Huma is the first finished sculpture of Allahyari’s exhibition, 3D printed in gleaming black resin, and poised atop a gallery pedestal surrounded by 3D printed talismans. Allahyari connects the deity’s warming powers to global warming; the sculpture represents those excluded from Western-dominated debates around climate change. Behind Huma, a projection displays different parts of the sculpture, as Allahyari recounts her version of the dark goddesses’ powers. “She restores myth and histories, the untold and the forgotten,” the artists says. “She is a monster, and should be.”

Other jinns will continue to inform residency. Examples include the Moroccan deity Aisha Qandisha, who creates openness in men by cracking their bodies. Allahyari likens her rebirth to a stand against patriarchy, and the dominance of the white male in tech culture.

Allahyari’s production methods are as much a part of her artistic sensibility as the subjects she portrays. For Allahyari, 3D printing is a feminist weapon which allows her to assert her own creative agency. Whereas numerous 3D printed works attempt to rescue cultural heritage, Allahyari notes that heritage is typically laced with neo-colonial ideals. She explains that the artefacts at stake are often exclusively Western. Middle Eastern artifacts that do receive attention in the 3D printing industry are usually reduced to simple reconstruction efforts, with little invested in their historical significance. Thus for Allahyari, crafting the 3D printed pieces in “She Who Sees the Unknown” represents a decolonizing act.  

3D models of "Huma"

The exhibition also includes a reading room with feminist texts that inspired Allahyari. Image files of rare text illustrations are readily browsable as well, in an effort to make the Farsi and Arabic texts more accesible.

Allahyari’s residency will eventually culminate in about a dozen 3D printed jinns and accompanying talismans. Next up, she plans to create an online archive devoted to dark female figures from the Middle East who are frequently neglected in history.

research figures from the Kitab al-Bulhan, or Book of Wonders



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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