Performance: Hayv Kahraman

October 27, 2018

Culver City



Press Release


Performance: Hayv Kahraman

Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects is pleased to host a special performance titled US and THEM by Hayv Kahraman, as part of the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, Silence is Gold. This event is free.



The catalyst for the performance stems from the questions: What does it mean to be in solidarity with distant, vulnerable Others? Can we elicit empathetic action through critical thinking on “humanness”? How do we mediate images of suffering Others seen in charity campaigns and the news within the context of today’s humanitarianism? How do we raise awareness about distant, suffering Othersin a way that gives them agency and does not create a rhetoric of the impoverished, brown global south versus the savior white north?

“I was part of the humanitarian disaster in northern Iraq (the exodus of the Kurds) in the early 1990’s that killed thousands of people. Through my research, I came across the Live Aid concert titled The Simple Truth: A Concert for Kurdish Refugees, a five-hour telethon staged in multiple Western cities. The concert was intended to raise money for the refugee crisis. Whitney Houston, Sting, MC Hammer, and many others performed to the backdrop of images of suffering Kurdish bodies on the big screen. It was an orchestrated staging of a spectacle of pity, creating problematic neocolonial divisions and stereotypes. I have many memories of the actual exodus in which around three million Kurds fled their homes to the borders of Iran and Turkey, but the most visceral image for me is the sheer amount of bodies on the move, walking through the mountainous terrain with their belongings on their backs.”


– Hayv Kahraman


US and THEM will involve a group of dancers moving slowly through the gallery space accompanied by a solo vocalist. Intertwined, helping and climbing on top of one another, their movements echo iconography taken from video footage of the Live Aid Simple Truth concert. Homogeneous in their appearance, the dancers mimic a murmuration of birds and wear masks with “donation slits” across their eyes. A “herdswoman” sings a subverted mawwal (a traditional genre of Arabic music), focusing on the word أعطني, which translates to "give me” in English. Her seductive vocals serve to entice the audience to donate money to the group of dancers. Interruptions in the uniformity of the group, such as a dancer removing their mask or stepping away to engage with the audience individually, alludes to the agency possessed by the distant Other. When a donation is given, the dancers line up, arms crisscrossed together and lift their knees one at a time in the style of the Kurdish Halperke, before slowing down to form into a large mass again. The performance refers to Hannah Arendt’s work on the politics of refugees, more specifically the dancers moving on en masse represent both the visibility of refugees and the invisibility of their voice.



The performance will include music composed by vocalist Jessika Kenney and choreography by Ariel Osterweis, both faculty at CalArts, in collaboration with dancers from The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts.





About the artist and participants



Hayv Kahraman was born in Baghdad, Iraq 1981 and now lives and works in Los Angeles. A vocabulary of narrative, memory and dynamics of non-fixity found in diasporic cultures are the essence of her visual language and the product of her experience as an Iraqi refugee/come émigré. The body as object and subject have a central role in her painting practice as she compositely embodies the artist herself and a collective. Kahraman’s recent solo exhibitions include; “Acts of Reparation“, CAM St Louis; “Audible Inaudible“, Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha; “Sound Wounds“, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; “Gendering Memories of Iraq- a Collective Performance” which has been staged at CAM St Louis, Birmingham Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins museum of art and Duke University; “Reweaving Migrant Inscriptions” Jack Shainman, New York; “Audible Inaudible“, The Third Line gallery, Dubai; “How Iraqi are you?“, Jack Shainman, New York. Recent group exhibitions include: “No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection”, Miami; “UNREALISM: Presented by Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch”, Miami Design District; “June: A Painting Show”, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Hayv was shortlisted for the 2011 Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum and has received the award “Excellence in Cultural Creativity”, Global Thinkers Forum.

Ariel Osterweis is on faculty at The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at CalArts, where she teaches critical dance studies and performance studies courses. She has also taught at Skidmore College, Wayne State University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Osterweis earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley and her B.A. in Anthropology at Columbia University. Her book manuscript, Body Impossible: Desmond Richardson and the Politics of Virtuosity, is under contract with Oxford University Press and examines issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality in contemporary dance. Osterweis also researches contemporary African dance and mixed-race, feminist, and transgender performance that disavows dance-based virtuosity. She is developing her next monograph, Prophylactic Aesthetics: Latex, Spandex, and Sexual Anxieties of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as a book of interviews called Disavowing Virtuosity, Performing Aspiration: Dance and Performance Interviews. Her publications appear in Dance Research Journal, TDR/The Drama Review, Women and Performance, e-misférica, Theatre Survey, The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (Oxford University Press, 2014), and Choreographies of 21st Century Wars (OUP, 2016). Having trained at San Francisco Ballet School, the Martha Graham School, and The Ailey School on full scholarship, Osterweis danced with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Mia Michaels R.A.W., and Heidi Latsky, has choreographed, and has served as dramaturg for John Jasperse and Narcissister. In addition to serving on the Dance/NYC Advisory Committee and the Editorial Board of the Dance Studies Association, she is Book Reviews Editor for Dance Research Journal. Osterweis currently lives in Los Angeles.


Jessika Kenney is a singer and a composer/improviser, born and raised in Spokane, Washington. She has been involved in many experimental and traditional scenes of music since the 90s, with the transformative powers and pluralities of voices, as well as varied experiences of mysticism, as core interests. At the same time, Jessika's performances reveal intense inner structure, built upon textual, acoustic, and social relations, as well as transmitted knowledge, such as that she received through her main teachers in Classical Persian radif and Javanese sindhenan. Kenney's documented solo works include the large-scale sound and video installation "Anchor Zero" and the LP "ATRIA". She currently teaches voice and composition at California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles.


Dancers: Kayla Aguila, Mia Givens, Nadia Muhammad, Emara Seymour-Jackson, Isabel Theobald, Savana Ortiz, Kristin Tims, Lilia Deering, Chenhui Mao, Alexandria Garland, Audrey Collette, Odessa Uno, Mira Spremich, Victoria Roman