Morehshin Allahyari


She Who Sees The Unknown: The Laughing Snake, 2018, online commission


Morehshin Allahyari's hypertext narrative The Laughing Snake uses the myth of a jinn—a supernatural creature or monstrous figure in Arabian mythology—to explore the status of women and the female body in the Middle East. 


Click to access She Who Sees The Unknown: The Laughing Snake now


Please be aware this work contains profanity and sensitive content which some people may find offensive.


According to the original myth appearing in the 14th and 15th century Arabic manuscript Kitab al-bulhan (Book of Wonders), the Laughing Snake had taken over a city, murdering its people and animals while numerous attempts to kill her remained unsuccessful. An old man finally destroyed the snake by holding up a mirror to her, which made her laugh so hard at her own reflection that she died. Using images of the snake and the mirror, Allahyari takes us though a labyrinthine online narrative that mixes personal and imagined stories to address topics such as femininity, sexual abuse, morality, and hysteria. The snake emerges as a complex figure, reflecting multifaceted and sometimes distorted views of the female and refracting images of otherness and monstrosity. The Laughing Snake is part of Allahyari's ongoing project She Who Sees the Unknown (2017 - present), in which she researches dark goddesses and fiendish female figures of Middle-Eastern origin to explore how the symbolic meanings embedded in traditions and myths surface in contemporary forms of oppression.


The Laughing Snake (2018) is a co-commission between FACT, Liverpool Biennial and Whitney Museum of American Art.


Images are all courtesy of the artist.

About Morehshin Allahyari

Morehshin Allahyari (b.1985, Tehran, Iran) lives and works in New York, USA. This new online commission takes the form of a web-based hypertext narrative. It is composed from a series of images and gifs that re-appropriate the story of the Laughing Snake taken from the late 14th- century Arabic manuscript known as Kitab al-Bulhan (Book of Wonders). The various myths about the Laughing Snake tell the story of a monstrous gure that has taken over a city and its lands. The only way to destroy the snake is to hold a mirror in front of her. Allahyari uses the concept of the Laughing Snake and the mirror as symbols to consider a series of current and imagined news stories and catastrophes in relation to the Middle East. By adopting the form of an online work, she introduces a 21st- century mirror with which online users can interact. Exploring the political, social and cultural contradictions that we face every day, Allahyari uses technology both as a philosophical tool to re ect on objects and as a poetic means to document our personal and collective life struggles.


Morehshin Allahyari is commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, FACT and Whitney Museum of American Art 


Image:Morehshin Allayhari, Material Speculation: ISIS, Marten, 2016. Image courtesy the artist