Raheleh T. Filsoofi and Reza Filsoofi: Listening: The Fourth String

Raheleh T. Filsoofi and Reza Filsoofi: Listening: The Fourth String

Vanderbilt University

March 14, 2022
Raheleh T. Filsoofi and Reza Filsoofi
Listening: The Fourth String
February 21–March 25, 2022
Nowruz celebration and performance: March 19
The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University
732-744 Joseph St
Clarksville, Tennessee 37040
United States
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An artistic collaboration between artist, musician, and community.

Listening: The Fourth String is a series of interactive multimedia installations and public performances that re-imagine the silenced existence of the Iranian musician and Sufi, Moshtagh Ali Shah (18 century), and emphasizes his historic contributions to music. The project addresses the concept of sound, suggesting the act of listening can power community engagement, promote social change, and foster a better future. The exhibition has been set via various events between February 21–March 25 in The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University. 

The Fourth String is a reference to the traditional Iranian instrument, the setar.  Literally translated from the Persian Farsi language, setar means three (se) strings (tar), and the Iranian setar is a three-stringed instrument. However, centuries ago, the Iranian Sufi musician, Moshtagh Ali Shah, added a fourth string. This dramatically changed the instrument from its original configuration, enhancing the sound and allowing musicians to explore more complex compositional and performance possibilities while retaining the traditional capabilities of the three-stringed instrument.

There are three components in this exhibition: 

Installation and performance: A Kermani rug that traditionally serves as a gathering place is transformed into a new four-string instrument where artists and community members can experience sound and music together. In addition to community participation, local musicians have been invited to collaborate in an experimental performance with this original instrument which makes its premiere in this exhibition. 

An installation, Artists as Witnesses: In a multi-channel video, this installation provides an opportunity for underrepresented artists to collectively come together as witnesses and participants of social change in action. Close-ups of over 30 Middle Eastern musicians peer back at exhibition viewers.  

Installation as a platform for learning and engagement: This is an educational and interactive installation that allows individuals to sit and play the setar. Three video monitors will provide step-by-step instruction on a few basic strumming and picking techniques.

The installations, performances, and artists’ lectures intend to broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern music and its ethos. It provides unique educational and performance opportunities for the community. The exhibit showcases the dynamic aspects of Middle Eastern music, its capacity to integrate with other musical genres, and the potency of its contribution to the soundscape of the United States.

Exhibition final event schedule
March 19: Nowruz Celebration, The New Gallery. Performance by Reza Filsoofi and Raheleh Filsoofi with special guests Charlie Gilbert and Carlos Duran.

Previous events
February 24: Gallery Talk by Raheleh Filsoofi. Performances by Reza and Raheleh Filsoofi, The New Gallery. / Artist Lecture by Raheleh Filsoofi, Sundquist 106. (Lecture was live-streamed.) / March 3: Performance by Reza Filsoofi and Michael Hix, The New Gallery.

About the artists
Raheleh Filsoofi is a multidisciplinary Iranian American artist based in the United States. Her work synthesizes sociopolitical statements as a point of departure and further challenges these fundamental arguments by incorporating ancient and contemporary media to create a holistic sensory experience. Her interdisciplinary practices examine the literal and figurative contexts of border, immigration, and land. Raheleh is an assistant professor in Ceramics at Vanderbilt University.

Reza Filsoofi is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer born in Tehran, Iran. Reza’s versatile musical styles combined with his expansive knowledge of different classical instruments have given him opportunities to collaborate with numerous artists and musicians in a variety of projects.

For over six years Raheleh’s and Reza Filsoofi’s socially engaged practices as visual artist and musician have brought groups of people together from diverse cultural backgrounds in South Florida and South Texas. They currently live and practice in Nashville, Tennessee.

About the curator
Michael Dickins is an interdisciplinary artist and the curator/director of The New Gallery at Austin Peay State University. His role as a curator in a university setting is to provide diverse programming that is visually appealing, physically engaging, and intellectually challenging to the university and surrounding communities. 

This exhibition has been fully supported by CECA – The Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Department of Art + Design at Austin Peay State University, and the Dean’s Office, College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University.

The New Gallery acknowledges the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Yuchi, Shawnee, and Cherokee First Nations on which we are exhibiting, teaching, and learning.

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Vanderbilt University
March 14, 2022

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