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‘On Transcending the Inhibited Space’ on View at UHD

O'Kane Gallery Exhibition Includes Installations by Raheleh Filsoofi


By Mike Emery

In many ways, Iran and the United States are worlds apart. They’re separated culturally, geographically and politically.

Leave it to the mind of an artist to bridge the divide between these nations and challenge perceptions of western and Middle Eastern societies.

Raheleh Filsoofi’s “On Transcending the Inhibited Space” explores the divisions—both real and imagined—between America and Iran. The multimedia exhibition is on view in the University of Houston-Downtown’s O’Kane Gallery through
Sept. 25.

The exhibition includes two installations, Imagined Boundaries and The Inh(a/i)bited Space.

Imagined Boundaries includes white boxes with ornate cutouts resembling Persian architecture. Patrons can look into the boxes and find (in some of them) video images of men and women peering back at them. These shells are almost like windows that allow viewers a peek into the lives of others.The faces of those inside the boxes are not dissimilar from those seen in Houston
or communities across the U.S.

“Both installations explore borders and boundaries that people create,” Filsoofi said. “They pose questions related to the concept of ‘otherness.’ Who are those people on the other side of those boxes? How do we cross those boundaries that we have created with others from different backgrounds or cultures?”

The Inh(a/i)bited Space connects several handmade clay jars (like those used in Iran for cooking) with a soundscape composed of voices, birds, musical instruments, news clips and other audio elements.

“I look forward to meeting more people from Houston. I want people who view this exhibition to think and question what’s happening around them. 
Raheleh Filsoofi

Filsoofi cites Iran’s restrictions on women traveling as an inspiration for this piece. She said that travel is often difficult for women in the country because they must have permission from their spouse or father.

“I love to travel,” she said. “I started collecting sounds from places to which I’ve traveled. These are sounds from places where I can move freely. The news clips addressing immigration restrictions interrupt the birdsongs and reinforce the challenges of freely moving from place to place.”

The artist divides her time between Texas, Florida and Iran. Her work has been exhibited at the South Florida Cultural Consortium in Miami; Abad Art Gallery in Tehran, the Art and Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida; and the Contemporary Art Museum of Isfahan, Iran.

“On Transcending the Inhabited Space” is Filsoofi’s first exhibition in Houston. Art aficionados can meet her and learn more about her work during a reception and artist talk at 6 p.m., Sept. 6 in the O’Kane Gallery.

“I look forward to meeting more people from Houston,” she said. “I want people who view this exhibition to think and question what’s happening around them. We’re living in a very dynamic time right now, so it’s important to raise awareness of what’s happening with people in this country and other nations such as Iran.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.