Online Video Series by Artist Bahar Behbahani
Created by Bahar Behbahani, Mother River is an online portal featuring a series of one-minute videos, each presenting a meditative journey dedicated to a river. Focusing on rivers that hold spiritual and cultural significance from across the world, Behbahani maps a transnational story of drastically changing ecologies marked by exploitation and displacement. The video series features Behbahani’s performative drawing acts with text performed by theater artist Tara Ahmadinejad and compositions by drummer/composer Maciek Schejbal performed by the Afro-Polka Ensemble, opening sites for reflection.
How might we sit with the past, present, and futures of these rivers and their intertwined ecosystems? What might we understand about the health of the human body and of collective society by paying attention to bodies of water under threat? How might we tend the complexities of these rivers—their memories, gifts, and wounds?
Mother River features the following rivers:
Olifants River (South Africa)
Ohangaron River (Uzbekistan)
Ohio River (USA)
Yellow River (China)
Mahakam River (Indonesia)
Odra River (Poland)
Ranchería River (Colombia)
Indus River (Pakistan)
The text is inspired by the poetry of Etel Adnan, Dionne Brand, Anne Carson, Joy Harjo, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Anne Waldman.
Created by Bahar Behbahani
Music composed by Maciek Schejbal
Music performed by the Afro-Polka Ensemble featuring Maciek Schejbal (drums), Jerome Harris (bass), Anders Nilsson (guitar), and Kenny Wessel (guitar)
Text performed by Tara Ahmadinejad
Special thanks to Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi
Commissioned by Asia Society Museum, New York
Organized by Sarah McCaffery, Manager, Interdisciplinary Arts
Mother River debuted on April 12, 2022, and is presented in conjunction with the current exhibition Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians—The Mohammed Afkhami Collection on view at Asia Society Museum through May 8, 2022.
Learn more about the artists here.
For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
—from A Litany for Survival, Audre Lorde
I perceive in passing
a crack in the
texture of the day
there are fewer and fewer
sailors, the sea waits
for the end of the living
—from Time, Etel Adnan
By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather...Just weather.
—from Beloved, Toni Morrison
If you wake up too early listen for it.
—from Town of the Dragon Vein, Plainwater, Anne Carson
Awake in a giant night
is where I am
There is a river where my soul,
hungry as a horse drinks beside me
—from Giant Night, Anne Waldman
I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:
Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .
—from Speaking Tree, Joy Harjo
the sea in the night, that part which
the lights outside the Dome make clear,
warmer than the air, and the water
becomes something other than water.
—from Chronicles of the Hostile Sun, Military Occupations, Dionne Brand
We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds
but it's up there. The sun's up there too.
—from Over the Weather, Naomi Shihab Nye
About the artists
Bahar Behbahani is a painter, collaborator, educator, and a hospitable instigator. Born and raised in Iran, she currently lives and works in New York City. Behbahani’s multilayered work explores the complexities of memory, loss, adaptation, and a fundamental search for a sense of place. Behbahani’s community-oriented installation I Can Drink Stars was featured in the 2019 Lahore Biennale and subsequently installed as public art in Lahore, Pakistan. Her solo exhibition, “Let the Garden Eram Flourish,” was presented at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in 2017. Her multidisciplinary series Garden Coup has been shown at the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York and the Shanghai Biennale (2016). Behbahani’s work has also been featured at the Moscow Biennale (2017), the Sydney Biennale (2012), the Sharjah Biennial (UAE) (2011), The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, and the Tribeca Film Festival, among others. Behbahani received a Creative Capital Award in 2019 and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2020.
Maciek Schejbal is a world-renowned drummer and long-standing faculty member of the Drummers Collective, a music school in Manhattan. He received a MA in classical percussion from the Academy of Music in Cracow, Poland. Schejbal has worked with legendary Polish artists Ewa Demarczyk and Marek Grechuta; South African musicians Winston ‘Mankunku’ Ngozi, Robbie Jansen, Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, and Tony Cedras; Cracow Radio and the Johannesburg and Cape Town Symphony Orchestras, among others. Schejbal toured internationally as the band leader, drummer, and producer during his collaboration with Cameroonian singer Kaïssa. Schejbal leads the Afro-Polka Ensemble, known for its ability to adapt to various musical genres such as jazz, rock, and avant-garde. The current ensemble, which performed the compositions for Mother River, comprises distinguished musicians Jerome Harris (bass), Anders Nilsson (guitar), and Kenny Wessel (guitar).
Tara Ahmadinejad is a director and cofounder of the live arts collective Piehole (a 2021 Jerome Hill Foundation Fellowship finalist). She has directed and coauthored boundary-pushing live art for theaters, galleries, and digital platforms, including collaborations with the Los Angeles–based Tender Claws in augmented reality and virtual reality: Tendar (Sundance 2018) and The Under Presents (Oculus Quest, Sundance 2019, Emmy finalist). Piehole’s latest work Disclaimer (a Drama League Award nominee, NYC Women’s Fund), also written/performed by Ahmadinejad, premiered at The Public Theater's 2021 Under the Radar Festival in New York City. Other recent directorial work includes Daaimah Mubashshir’s Emily Black Is a Total Gift (Fisher Center at Bard College), Sarah Einspanier’s Lunch Bunch (Clubbed Thumb, PlayCo), and digital collaborations with the writers Satoko Ichihara (Japan Society), Eliza Bent (New Georges), and Rinne Groff (Clubbed Thumb). Ahmadinejad has taught directing and devised theater at Columbia University, Barnard College, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon, New York University, and University of Tehran, among other schools.