Avish Khebrehzadeh, and her whimsical animated drawings, reflect the global nature of contemporary art today. The Iranian-born artist lives in Washington, D.C., but was educated in Italy and won the Venice Biennale's Young Italian Art Award in 2003. If her exotic credentials predispose us to expect a trendy sensibility, that is not entirely the case; Khebrehzadeh uses digital video as a vehicle for sketchily drawn animations that move like ghostly figures in a dream, spectral reminders of ancient allegories whose original meanings no longer are clear. Here fish swim through the air as her figures seem to sleepwalk through enigmatic scenarios. Their subtitled dialogue conveys paradoxical pronouncements like, "A child of the sea is bad luck." Mythic or Magic Realist narratives work best in the hands of Asian or Latin storytellers — in the hands of a John Updike they fall flat, but Khebrehzadeh's video vignettes recall something of the mythic somnambulism of Salman Rushdie's Enchantress of Florence minus the grandiosity. Simply and whimsically executed, her intrigues, at their best, tap into those mysterious attic rooms of the mind where genetic memories of far away places and long ago times are sequestered like sleeping genies awaiting certain charged images or events to awaken us to things once more familiar, but now as distant as dreams vaguely recalled from childhood.
That dreamlike quality of past times and otherworldly sensibilities also is seen in Lafcadio's Revenge, an eloquent hearselike sculpture (parked at 800 Press Street) intended as a "mobile museum" of New Orleans' "forgotten histories." A collaboration between Tessa Farmer, Nina C. Nichols and Dana Sherwood, this independent Prospect.2 satellite production was created as an homage to the great 19th century journalist Lafcadio Hearn, who was the first to convey, via his dispatches to Harper's Weekly, the deeper mysteries of New Orleans to a wider audience in the English-speaking world. Like Hearn, these artists seek to provide "a view into the secret life of the city; a cacophony of culture and magic. " — D. Eric Bookhardt