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Elise Kermani - Performance Art Videos

Elise Kermani Plus

            Elise Kermani is a sound and intermedia artist based out of New York City and Delmar, New York. She is the creator and artistic director of MiShinnah Productions, a company dedicated to promoting collaborative cross-genre artwork. Heavily…


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            Elise Kermani is a sound and intermedia artist based out of New York City and Delmar, New York. She is the creator and artistic director of MiShinnah Productions, a company dedicated to promoting collaborative cross-genre artwork. Heavily influenced by European theatrical video art, as well as Shirin Neshat, Julie Taymor, Diamanda Galas, and Maya Deren, Kermani’s work has also been compared to that of performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson. Kermani is primarily interested in adapting classic material and crafting her own unique, modernized interpretations; her projects consistently feature strong elements of music and dance. Particularly prevalent in the work is the idea of collage; not necessarily two-dimensional collage, but the layering of time itself, expanding a story back into the past and also forward into the present. Using varying levels of sound and fragmented visuals to comprise diverse, experimental performance pieces, Kermani aims to evoke a trance-like state—hypnotizing and even submerging a viewer within a strange new world. The music (much of which is composed by Kermani herself) is “post-modern,” emerging as a kaleidoscope of noise, a comingling of every kind of sound imaginable.

Kermani states:
"I like to include dance in my work because it can tell a story without being literal; expressing character and narrative, while still leaving plenty open to the imagination. Although my projects are frequently feminist in tone, I don't set out to make overtly political work. Perhaps because of my Catholic upbringing, in which Mass was an inspirational and structured ritual for me, I am fixated on the symbols, archetypes, and materiality in the sounds and visuals I generate for my projects."

            Most recently, MiShinnah has produced three projects: JOCASTA, POE, and Iphigenia in Exlie (the last of which is still in-progress). Inspired by magical realism, these pieces mix ancient stories with modern sensibilities. There is little interest in precise historical accuracy; the inspiration merely comes from old stories with universal themes. History, however, is essential: as the foundation for the times we now live in. Fascinated by origins, Kermani wishes to explore where things come from and how differing time periods might relate to one another.

Her current focus, with the project Iphigenia, is on puppetry. A lovely wolf puppet is seen on film dancing with a woman in the woods; thus Kermani is researching the history of man’s friendship with canines. For example, when composing for the score, she is listening to ancient melodies performed on Egyptian trumpets; these happen to have the same pitch as a wolf’s howl. This synchronicity and the prospect of meaningful connections serves as Kermani’s muse.

            Kermani’s passion is collaboration: with musicians, composers, performers, visual artists and dancers. Regularly arranging music for and overseeing other people’s work, Kermani is always looking for new collaborators, admiring the skills others have in their particular fields. Currently, she is connecting with skilled puppet-makers, for both Iphigenia and future projects, investigating the myriad ways puppets can be used to convey dance-like, non-linear narratives. Kermani is also looking to make a transition in showing her work, wishing to begin producing immersive video installations that can play in galleries—rather than presenting her projects as films shown in theaters or performance spaces, as she has done for years. Sitting down and watching the work in a proscenium hall is perhaps not the best way to see it; Kermani thinks audience members should be able to walk away. So many things happen in each piece—adding to the collage, layered feeling—it’s almost too much to take in all at once. Because the work is non-linear, viewers should be given the choice to step back, divert their attention, and maybe not even watch the entire thing.

Kermani is interested both in bringing back old projects and reconfiguring them for gallery spaces, and in having her latest work presented in this format. Kermani does not consider herself a straight-up filmmaker, thus her pieces should not be surveyed as straight-forward movies; she is a visual and audio artist. She seeks to blur the lines between live performance and film, breaking the fourth wall, shattering the ritual, and pushing fantastical stories forth into reality.

~Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

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