New in 2015: The City & The City by Mariam Ghani

By | December 24, 2015

For the rest of the year, we’re highlighting amazing works of art that became part of the SLAM collection in 2015. We’ll be posting a new acquisition daily through the end of the year. You can read each installment here

Mariam Ghani

Mariam Ghani

The City & The City, the fictional video narrative with elements drawn from St. Louis’ past and present, was at the center of Currents 110: Mariam Ghani–an exhibition that critic and art journalist Tyler Green recently named as one of the top exhibitions of the year. The Museum is proud to announce the video is now part of the collection.

For Currents 110, Ghani turned her lens toward St. Louis to create a video set in the city but inspired by China Miéville’s 2009 sci-fi noir novel The City & The City. Filmed during the protests following the police shooting of Michael Brown, Mariam Ghani said she set out to reflect the historical moment while creating “an allegory for the way many cities function—which is as different cities for different people.”

Ghani shot The City & the City in Kinloch and in the gutted Cotton Belt Freight Depot just north of downtown with her longtime collaborator, Erin Ellen Kelly, a choreographer and a St. Louis native.

The video’s plot starts with a murder, Ghani explains on her website:

Like the classic film noir Sunset Boulevard, however, the video adaptation of The City & The City is narrated by the dead man, whose body is only ever represented as a shattered mirror. The narration moves from the present investigation into his death, to the past memories it rakes up. The course of the investigation reveals, questions, and finally breaches the foundational structures of this world. Along the way, we visit a series of places significant both to the private history of the dead man, and also to the public narratives and particular rules of the divided city he inhabited. The actual geography of St. Louis is folded and re-stitched to create unexpected juxtapositions; composited video layers, which flicker or dissolve, are used to represent the processes of seeing and unseeing.

Born in 1978 in New York, Ghani received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York. She currently is a visiting scholar at New York University’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute. Her video and photographic installations investigate built and natural landscapes, such as Kabul, Afghanistan and Kassel, Germany, which have layered and complicated histories. Ghani’s work has been featured at major museums and film festivals, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2013); dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany (2012); the Sharjah Biennial 10 in the United Arab Emirates (2011); and the Modern Mondays series at the Museum of Modern Art (2011).