I was born in Tehran, Iran in 1985 in the middle of the Iran- Iraq war and during the huge political changes in the country. I grew up with poetry and stories that my parents were reading to me to keep me calm and avoid the stresses caused by the war. One of my favorite stories that my dad was readying to me was about a bird named Simorgh. Simorgh is a mythical bird in Iranian mythology and literature, which is repeated in two important literature books of Iran Shahnameh (The book of King) by Ferdousi and Conference of the Birds by Attar Neishabouri.
After my migration in 2011 to San Francisco, I started to observe the new place and what I have learned about the “ Dream Land” in movies and media. In San Francisco I got really interested in diversity and various languages that I could hear in the city. This variety of cultures and the issue of displacement and immigration immediately reminded me of the story of Simorgh that my father was reading to me when I was a child.
In the story of Simorgh, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their new king, as they don’t have one at the moment. The hoopoe, the wisest bird of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical bird that resembles the Phoenix. Journey of the birds takes them through the seven valleys of quest, love, understanding, independence and detachment, unity, astonishment, and finally poverty and nothingness.
This piece named Simorgh is a multi-sound and sculptural installation created from thirty hand and machine made birdhouses, installed in a space like a spiral. The juxtaposition of these fragmented pieces in the space unifies them, making them complete each other. The sounds are collected from identified birds around the world. The whole piece is inspired by the story of Simorgh. Each birdhouse emanates individual identified bird sounds, which together represent different people around the world. Also the design of these houses is a reference to the tradition of human houses in Persian history.
The Story of Simorgh
In the valley of the quest one undergoes a hundred difficulties and trials. After one has been tested and become free, one learns in the valley of love that love has nothing to do with reason. The valley of understanding teaches that knowledge is temporary, but understanding endures. Overcoming faults and weaknesses brings the seeker closer to the goal. In the valley of independence and detachment one has neither desire to possess nor any wish to discover.
To cross this difficult valley one must be roused from apathy to renounce inner and outer attachments so that one can become self-sufficient. In the valley of unity the Hoopoe announces that although you may see many beings, in reality there is only one, which is complete in its unity. As long as you are separate, good and evil will arise; but when you lose yourself in the divine essence, they will be transcended by love. When unity is achieved, one forgets all and forgets oneself in the valley of astonishment and bewilderment. The Hoopoe declares that the last valley of deprivation and death is almost impossible to describe. In the immensity of the divine ocean the pattern of the present world and the future world dissolves. As you realize that the individual self does not really exist, the drop becomes part of the great ocean forever in peace.