Sadaf Sadri

Commentary by Aurora San Miguel

Silence cuts in and out of a wall-mounted monitor. Sounds repeat, manipulated like tape loops, speeding up verbal fragments into indecipherable noise. Viscose oil yo-yos up and down aided through editing time forward and backward. Extension, duration, and causation are the mediums from which rapid sequences of recorded atrocities appear. History is retraced again through images. In this film, flashes of a single person in a full-body shiny mylar-like garment shifts in front of a greenscreen. Oil spilling, people fleeing, magma flowing — all these representations of the appropriated and produced footage collide into one another to create a delirious montage. 

I think commercial cinema is just too far from the aesthetics of my work. I think experimental film gives me the freedom to get closer to my audience and have a real interaction instead of recreating an interaction.

During our visit, Sadaf speaks of an experiment: a burqa hidden with mirrors, covered in cameras, becoming an apparatus for surveillance. I imagine something like a cloaking device in Predator (special effects to make transparent figures distinguishable only through reflections at the edge of their silhouette). Or military technology used to disguise weaponry (thermal visual concealment and battle fatigues). That my mind drifts to insidious references in fantasy and reality signals a particular western gaze, one steeped in a regime of weaponized surveillance. Sadaf’s work emphasizes understanding these tools, rather than completely surrendering to their capture. The largest of Sadaf’s interfaces in the gallery is a wall projection of shape-shifting colorful forms. This 150 frame AI video samples animals that “exhibit queer behavior”. Each image melts into one another. They are slippery and their individual forms cannot be made out, as if to evade total recognition. 

On two adjacent screens, a phantom subject, positioned off-camera, turns into spectacle. The wide angle POV footage is a record of both what is seen, what is not meant to be seen, and those that see. We see the crowded plaza of people casually moving past and away from the camera. We are not meant to see the camera’s operator nor the burqa worn by the operator. We notice those that see as their eyes meet the camera or their necks careen to look back. By remaining uncaptured by the lens, the subject redirects the befuddled stares of passersby onto the videos’ audience. This tension between concealing, revealing, and who is being watched remains at the forefront of the work. 

I am not really sure if I call what I am doing a performance. I mean of course, it is one but its point is less performing and more not performing. I chose not to show myself and the burqa because I think the conversation would be less focused on surveillance and western gaze and more about women, the burqa, religion, etc., which I am not interested in touching upon in this project.