Roxanne Varzi

Roxanne Varzi

Roxanne Varzi is a writer, artist, filmmaker, playwright and Full professor of Anthropology at the University of California Irvine. She has a PhD from Columbia University and was the first Fulbright to Iran since the Revolution. She is published in The London Review of books, Le Monde Diplomatique, Feminist Review, Public Culture, American Anthropologist and is the author of two books. Her films Plastic Flowers Never Die, (2009 DER) and Tehran tourist (2019) have been shown all over the world. Her sound projects include Salton Sublime, commissioned by the Ohrenhoch Gallery, Berlin, Germany and The Whole World Blind.

Artist Location: Irvine, CA

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On-site Event June 4th

No wings to fly from God
A zoologist tells us that birds sing in order not to suffocate. Flying Away or Rapture/Rupture is my second in a three-part multi-media video/sound/space installation project on climate change and religion. Made for SoundPedro and using the site-specific, awe-inspiring view of the San Pedro port and the cargo ships in particular as a “site/sight” the audience/auditor will listen to a found-sound/spoken word piece on birds, climate change and the religious idea of the Rapture. Birds, no matter how high they fly can never leave earth, as the matter-of-fact, they have been grounded and victims of just about every oil spill as is evident in the international bird rescue right below Angel’s gate. They are the perfect metaphor of both escape and vision. As an anthropologist not only will I take a bird’s eye view of climate change, supply-chain demands and the fall-out on marine life (as exhibited again just below the angel’s gate at the Marine mammal rescue) but I am also interested in the embodied experience of the auditor/viewer as they watch and listen as the evening progresses and the light changes from a brilliant view to a dark and ominous view of the port, not so different form an oil spill.

Poets and painters of the 18th century sought a religious experience in the sublime continence of nature. They enjoyed meditating on the beauty of nature’s danger and the inherent tension and possibility it always offered of sudden and assured death – as a result for example, of a fall from a high cliff, a storm at sea, a volcano’s eruption or chasm opening in the earth to swallow one whole. They also meditated on the vastness, infinity, magnificence and the resulting exultation, the possibility of being raised up, temporarily overwhelmed in a spiritual sense and being made to feel small in the face of overwhelming emotion and the awe which nature can inspire. This transcendental desire has humans seeking a god or something greater in nature. Salton Sublime meditates on the meaning of sublime today in the midst of massive environmental degradation. The Salton Sea in southern California brings a whole new meaning to the sublime as it contains both the awe-inspiring possibilities of a spiritual experience as well as terror and abject fear –especially of death. This project is a remnant of that same heritage of sublime art that seeks to engage the beauty and the terrifying danger of nature while examining both our reliance on and abuse of nature… it asks, what is ultimately left of the sublime? Can we inspire awe from terror?

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