Curatorial Projects > Once at Present: Contemporary Art of the Bay Area Iranian Diaspora (2019)

Shiva Ahmadi
Ascend, 2017
Single-channel video animation with sound, edition of 7; total running time 6:48
Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA

On September 2, 2015, the death of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, was reported. He and his family were seeking refuge in Europe when their inflatable boat capsized and the young boy drowned. This devastating event, and the figure of Aylan play a central role in Ascend. The title is a play on the boy’s name in ancient Arabic, meaning “high one,” or “to ascend.” The video begins with monkey-like creatures, who are depicted at leisure in a lush landscape. At first this imagined heavenly world seems full of beauty and optimism, but the scene soon becomes one full of terror. Fire rains from the sky, the waters rise and shake the stability of a boat, bubble-like forms that were once the objects of play turn into bombs and weapons of destruction…a young boy in a shape of doll who was initially being guarded by a winged figure is now floating in the water. The whole atmosphere turns dark. And then the video loops, and begins again.

Once at Present: Contemporary Art of the Bay Area Iranian Diaspora

March 29 - April 20, 2019
Minnesota Street Project
San Francisco, CA