MAP mima’s winter commission presents Perth based artist Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson.

you need not fear the monsters of the sea is an immersive fairytale reflecting on the artist’s own experience of closeness and distance. Through Persian miniature painting, mythology, magical realism, and Baháʼí spirituality, she explores the gaze of intimacy and rage.

You need not fear the monsters of the sea is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Showing 28 June – 01 September Multi-Arts Pavilion (MAP mima) Lake Macquarie, NSW

you need not fear the monsters of the sea is an immersive fairytale reflecting on the artist’s own experience of closeness and distance. Through Persian miniature painting, mythology, magical realism, and innate spirituality, she explores the gaze of intimacy and rage. 

“As a child, my culture was ever-present however it wasn’t until adulthood that I truly started to dive deep within these roots. Especially coming from a place, where I cannot visit my ancestral home. On my mother’s side, they escaped persecution during the Iranian 1979 Revolution, where my grandfather had a warrant of arrest for being a Baháʼí. My grandmother had to make certain choices that ensured their safety amidst the turbulence of internal war. They eventually found refuge in Australia,1980. On my father’s side, my grandmother was a Baháʼí pioneer dedicating her life to service, together with my grandfather, who was a full colonel of the Royal Iranian Air Force. My father was one of the first Iranians to re-settle in Australia as a child, who grew up in Adelaide – this was also during the White Australia Policy in the 60’s. Two very different experiences of migration and yet united under this very distinct spiritual identity….”

Immersed in the echoes of the artist’s childhood home; suburbia; the gentle sway of a crystal chandelier remembered at the center of her house; Australian shorelines and wind. Home is also folklore, fairy tales, and myth. The artist explores this magical terrain through surreal, generative imagery, inspired by the mythic Persian epic The Tale of Sorab, (from Shahnahmeh, The Book of Kings by Ferdowsi), an enchanting tragedy equivalent to that of Odyssey or Shakespeare, where within the tale, father and son – unknowingly – fight to the death. 

“My grandmother on my dad’s side was a global pioneer of the Baha’i Faith, traversing multiple nations to teach social cohesion and on my mothers side, a Farsi literature teacher, traveling within these ancient texts. Coming into this space, I found a mutual thread of excitement within the mystical and deeply poetic Tales of Shahnameh, a story of spiritual domains and home…where we travel this captivating world of ancient text, yet this undertone of otherworldliness…my grandmothers were travelers…”

Throughout, we hear the sonic narrator (composed by Ashton Namdar), each instrument its own character, responding to the emotional landscapes of loss, love, and rage. Color and light set the stage. Stepping inside the immersive world, two male figures grapple with resistance and union; anonymity and vulnerability. We see their veiling – face to face golden masks (inspired by the wall art of Persepolis in Iran). We witness their tension and collision. The fractured auditory quakes, a mirror of the emotional reality within the dream state. Derived from the catalog of the persecution of the Baháʼí’s (archival images courtesy of the Baháʼí Archives, Persecution of the Baháʼí ), we witness the distorted and physical fracture of felt war. The Tale of Sorab is no longer a myth, but a reflection of reality. The spiritual literature of Abdu’l Baha reads:

“But war is made for the satisfaction of men’s ambition; for the sake of world gain to the few, terrible misery is brought to numberless homes, breaking the hearts of hundreds of men and women! How many widows mourn their husbands, how many stories of savage cruelty do we hear! How many little orphaned children are crying for their dead fathers, how many women are weeping for their slain sons! There is nothing so heart-breaking and terrible as an outburst of human savagery!” – ʻAbdu’l-Bahá Paris Talks, 1911.

As they wrestle, in close up, it becomes an intimate embrace, asking perhaps, to look closer. By contrast, we only ever see the two lovers embrace at wide shot, movements as a pendulum of distance and closeness. Pain and love interplay and meet at the cross section of grief. 

Re-adapting a Virtual Reality artwork developed in 2022-23, and animation made from The Virtual Architecture of Empathy research, the myth is transformed against the backdrop of lived experience through 360 projection mapping. Witness, as part of the story transforms out of the headset and into the world of MAP mima. Collaging, and cutting composition of distinct color palettes, light and form, generative algorithms to create dynamic virtual dreamscapes – Rostam and Sorab, the ocean – body, sound and light interplay, converse and merge. Through fragmented and poetic imagery, the artist highlights the paradox and union of rage and intimacy. 

“Home has always been a tricky concept for me to navigate – being here on this land, or a visitor to another – home has always been a ‘neither here nor there’. I think I am starting to come into my own as a ‘traveler’….”

It is an ode to memory, soul, and catharsis. Perhaps to overcome war, pain and aggression we need to look closer, to witness and dig deeper into the nuance of our collective experience.

 

CREDITS

Lead Artist: Elham Eshraghian-Haakansson
Sound Composer: Ashton Namdar
Director of Photography: Elliott Nieves
VFX Artist: Jarrad Russell
Cast: Danny Aghaie, Ashkaan Hadi, Asha Kiani, Vafa Kiani
The Baháʼí Archives
Chris Huzzards Studio
Special acknowledgements to Forrest Research Foundation, University of Western Australia and the Baháʼí’ Community.