• Directory of Portrayals
    Sahra Motalebi
    Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
    Feb 10, 2019 to Jul 22, 2019
    Sahra Motalebi

Sahra Motalebi, Sahra Motalebi: Directory of Portrayals, 2019. Performance view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art. ©️ Paula Court. Photo: Paula Court

An open-form opera that draws its structure from a libretto based on an online exchange between Motalebi, who lives in New York, and her sister, who lives in Iran, leading up to their first meeting. Interposed between sometimes untranslatable geographical and cultural narratives, the digital format of this relationship informs the opera’s experiments in scenography, narrativity, and performance. This work plays out against the backdrop of its own construction, within which the opera moves between the speculative imagining of its full production and its artifacts. Expanding and deconstructing the limits of autobiography and representation, Motalebi’s roles of architect, composer, director, performer, and writer are interspersed with media shared in the dialog between sisters, “historical” texts and AI translation. A performance-exhibition has been commissioned as part of the 79th Whitney Biennial.

Sahra Motalebi is an interdisciplinary artist born in Birmingham, Alabama. Often formatted as performance-exhibition, her work includes opera, scenographic installation, vocal composition and recordings, painting, sculpture, video, and text. Her projects have been exhibited and she has performed internationally at The Kitchen, MoMA PS1, Museum Ludwig, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Sculpture Center, Swiss Institute, the Villa Empain, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has collaborated with Sophia Al-Maria, Kai Althoff, Daren Bader, Rafael de Cardenas, Jesper Just, Sibyl Kempson, Asad Raza, Will Rawls, and the Yves Klein Archives. Motalebi graduated from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied classical vocal performance, painting, and the history of art and architecture. She attended the first year of the master’s of architecture program at Columbia University, focusing on the relationship between architecture, visual art, and performance. She lives in New York.