From Tehran to Texas, artist Raheleh Filsoofi has always incorporated communities in her work.
“My work is … always community-based; the audience becomes part of the work. The process of creating my work involves community of some sort,” she said. “My belief in community work and involvement of people around me is part of my practice as a teacher, as an educator (and) an artist.”
Filsoofi is an assistant professor of ceramics at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and one of the core faculty members at the School of Art this season.
She will be speaking at 7 p.m. tonight in the Hultquist Center, as part of the Visual Arts Lecture Series.
In her lecture, “The Intersection of Sound, Space and Solidity,” Filsoofi will discuss her artistic practice and some of her recent projects.
Filsoofi is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses elements like video and ambient sound in her work to create immersive experiences.
“My goal is to create an environment that is a holistic sensory experience for the viewer,” she said. “I’m going to talk about why I use sound in my work as a visual artist.”
Much of her work centers around borders, immigration and intercultural communication. As an Iranian-American woman, these concepts have deep, personal resonance.
Filsoofi immigrated to the United States shortly after 9/11.
“(That) was a very interesting experience as an Iraninan,” she said. “It took me a few years to find myself comfortable talking about or expressing (my culture) without somehow associating that kind of conversation to 9/11.”
She splits her time between South Florida and Texas, where she finds inspiration in the diversity and intersection of immigrant experiences.
“I dealt with immigration issues for years before I became a citizen,” Filsoofi said. “It was a long process, a very complicated, complex process. I’m kind of a witness to … the stories we share as immigrants, and also stories that, for me, are new. … Being close to (other immigrants), hearing their stories, has such an impact on my work.”
She hopes to use her lecture to kick off further interaction between Chautauquans and her art.
One of the projects she will discuss, “Imagined Boundaries — Episode 2,” is a continuation of a 2017 project, for which Filsoofi filmed videos of American and Iranian volunteers looking into a camera. She displayed the videos in parallel art shows in Hollywood, Florida and Tehran, with the Iranians looking at videos of the Americans and vice versa.
“(In this project,) we try to cross the boundary that separates people from different cultures, from their religions, from getting to know each other,” she said. “There’s no dialogue in those videos, it’s just looking, because taking a look and being curious is the first step.”
In her remaining time at the Institution, she invites Chautauquans to contribute to “Episode 2” by volunteering to be in her next group of videos. From 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday in the faculty studios at the School of Art, she will be filming videos, and encourages anyone who would like to set up a different time to film, to contact her at
“I’m hoping with this work, especially with the involvement of the people around me, to create this collective dialogue about what it means to cross our boundaries, what it means to communicate or have a willingness to communicate,” she said. “I’m inviting everybody to join in this project.”
It typically takes about one minute to film each volunteer for the project.
“But the impact of that one minute is very important,” she said.