Tiziana Di Caro Gallery presents The Owl’s Made a Nest in the Ruins of the Heart, the second solo exhibition in its rooms by Shadi Harouni (Hamedan, Iran, 1985, based in New York), opening Saturday November 27, 2021, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. The exhibition will be on view through February 5th, 2022.
The exhibition is composed of new works, all created in 2021. The title, The Owl’s Made a Nest in the Ruins of the Heart, is borrowed from a little-known Kurdish folk poem, one of many murmured in the Hawraman Mountains and amongst its diaspora scattered across the globe.
The exhibition opens with Xanî Xanî Xanî, a hanging scroll, embroidery on textile, featuring text and iconography borrowed from the 1968 children’s Kurdish language primer book Alfabe by the writer M. Emîn Bozarslan. The book was written and published in Turkey, immediately banned, and its writer arrested and put on trial with charges of separatism. Xanî in Kurdish (Kurmanji) signifies house, home, a dwelling place. Harouni’s exhibition begins with home as a forbidden concept, a banned word in an outlawed language.
The film, titled The Owl’s Made a Nest in the Ruins of the Heart, is produced in Iranian Kurdistan, and depicts the interior of a timeworn house, where a cow freely roams about without human intervention. This simple arresting image is accompanied by the voice of a Kurdish dissident, a former occupant of the house, who reflects on the spaces he has occupied throughout his life: from his childhood village home—“like a mythological character, human on top and animal below”—to prison cells once occupied by royal horses, to the featured house whose doors were at some point opened to roaming animals as an act of veiled protest. These accounts, marked by a decidedly ironic humor, are set against the complex and painful histories of global social and political crises, including a growing housing crisis that reflects broken political promises and vanishing hopes of the working classes around the world.
Unnamed Dwelling I & II: Bread, Housing, Freedom and A for Fire are the titles of two large-scale brass sculptures, whose forms reference reliquaries, ancient and contemporary, and the human dwellings they recall. The various elements that make up the facades of the sculptures come together to form new architectural spaces. Each of these intricately composed elements reflects the desires, ideals, broken promises and possibilities of contemporary human dwellings. Echoed across the film and through the sculptures is the persistent revolutionary slogan Bread, Housing, Freedom. These three words appear as a small plaque in Farsi lettering. The text is paired with architectonic forms reminiscent of early modern social housing projects, funerary elements lifted directly from reliquaries and cemeteries, and playful objects and images from ancient and modern interiors.
Shadi Harouni’s work often begins in her region of origin, always reflecting universal themes and narratives through writing, video, prints, sculpture, photography and installation. At the center of each of her projects are political and social narratives, combined with personal and collective folklores, and material investigations. The element that distinguishes her work is a persisting elegance through which she conceals and reveals the heavy burden of inherited histories and possible futures. This clear dichotomy between her aesthetic precision and the uncontainable gravity of her content produces a new empirical reality that is both political and poetic in its expression.
Shadi Harouni (b. 1985, Hamedan, Iran) is an artist based in New York and Tehran. Harouni’s art and writing have been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, Art Forum, Shifter Magazine, among other publications. Her work has been exhibited at The Queens Museum (NY), Prague City Gallery, Doris McCarthy Gallery at University of Toronto, Centro Pecci (IT), Kunstmuseum Bonn, DE, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY. She has been awarded grants and fellowships from Harpo Foundation, Gattuzo Foundation (CA), Fondazione Ratti (IT), SOMA (MX), Civitella Ranieri (IT), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Maine), where she also served as Acting Director, summer of 2019. Harouni holds an MFA from New York University (2011) and a BA from University of Southern California (2007). She is a Professor and Head of Studio Arts at New York University.