Elham Rokni, 9:49 min.
Movement is a theme in my works, and it has to do with immigrating. The feeling of wandering, and not being in a stable place. It also has to do with my own physical situation of being in a wheelchair… Moving from one place to another creates memory gaps. [I am interested in exploring] what was forgotten, and how and if it can ever be remembered again. -Artist Elham Rokni
Sternthal Books and Artis present a new film titled, In the video Elham discusses themes of movement and wandering that are present in her work, and in relation to her experience immigrating to Israel from Iran with her family.
Elham brings family stories and histories into her painting and video practice to reflect on the impact of generational memory gaps. In the video, The Wedding (2015), Elham seeks to discover the precise date of her parents’ wedding ceremony in Tehran in 1978, a detail that her family does not remember. Searching for clues in home videos of the wedding, and conversations with family members, reveals the context of the fragile political environment at the time in pre-revolutionary Tehran.
The video installation, The Crying Man Project (2022) documents Elham’s father crying while listening to the song, If One Day (Age Ye rooz), by the Iranian singer Faramarz Aslani. For this project, Elham filmed her father listening to the song every year, for over a decade. The resulting videos capture the emotional power of memories, the process of aging, and explore notions of masculinity.
Elham also shares The Seven Abdulkarims (2018), a project which includes a video, book of folktales, and drawings. Working in collaboration with asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea living in Israel, Elham collects and retells their folktales. The video component blends fiction and reality, relating folktales to the immigration process in Israel. The book transcribes a collection of eighteen folktales alongside drawings which Elham created responsively. Speaking about this work, and her practice more broadly, Elham discusses the importance of storytelling as a tool for intergenerational understanding and sharing.
In her recent practice, Elham is interested in connecting her personal experience as an immigrant to urgent political and ethical issues. She sees the migration of asylum seekers and refugees to Israel as a continuation of previous waves of immigration to the country. More generally, Elham explores the actions and notions of accessibility and free movement in relation to the dialectical development of the globalized world. On the one hand, she considers the free movement of goods, services, and a limited number of people, and on the other hand, fortified nations and communities that are surrounded by separation walls and other barriers, abound with racism and fear.
In the Studio with Elham Rokni, is part of a series of artist video profiles featuring artists based in Israel who are recipients of the Artis Grant for Exceptional Work in Uncertain Times. The video was created by Artis, edited and directed by Ian Sternthal, and produced by Sternthal Books. All rights reserved by Artis, 2022.
Elham Rokni was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to Israel at the age of 9. Elham is a graduate of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design’s BFA and MFA programs, and she has been a professor in the art department at the Bezalel Academy since 2013. Elham has participated in many solo and group exhibitions and film festivals worldwide. She has received various grants and awards, and her works can be found in public and private collections.
Elham’s work explores the relationship between memories, space, and movement, specifically among refugee and immigrant communities. Through her practice, she examines memory as a way to reconnect to one’s past, and the emotional nature of this experience.
In her drawings and paintings, Elham repeatedly constructs and deconstructs patterns, colors, and shapes that are associated with her childhood memories and family albums. Series such as Rugs, Wallpapers, Mosque Ral, Green Nights, and Abbas and Khalili Sisters present generic and orientalist representations of the Islamic world and include and create hybrids of middle eastern and western cultures. www.elhamrokni.net