Photo: Roxanne Varzi, Salton Sea, California

Salton Sublime

Audiovisual installation

7 minutes




February 2017 Ohrenhoch Gallery

March 2017, Off-Screen Festival , CAMRA at PENN, Phiadelphia, PA

JUNE 3, 2017 Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA

August 2017 Miami Independent Film Festival, (MINDIE) Miami, FL


Poets and painters of the 18th century sought a religious experience in the sublime continence of nature.  They enjoyed meditating on the beauty of nature's danger and the inherent tension and possibility it always offered of sudden and assured death - as a result for example, of a fall from a high cliff, a storm at sea, a volcano's eruption or chasm opening in the earth to swallow one whole. They also meditated on the vastness, infinity, magnificence and the resulting exultation, the possibility of being raised up, temporarily overwhelmed in a spiritual sense and being made to feel small in the face of overwhelming emotion and the awe which nature can inspire. This transcendental desire has humans seeking a god or something greater in nature. Salton Sublime meditates on the meaning of sublime today in the midst of massive environmental degradation.  The Salton Sea in southern California brings a whole new meaning to the sublime as it contains both the awe-inspiring possibilities of a spiritual experience as well as terror and abject fear - especially of death.  This project is a remnant of that same heritage of sublime art that seeks to engage the beauty and the terrifying danger of nature while examining both our reliance on and abuse of nature... it asks, what is ultimately left of the sublime? Can we inspire awe from terror?


FUZUL, 3:18 minutes, 2016

Audio story in Zoya Sardashti’s curated The Future of Iranian Theatre, Curative Archive [info]

I can’t think of an initial inspiration, inspire is to breathe and I was born with a questioning, fuzul, mind. I’ve always asked a lot of questions and when it comes to relaying the information I collect, my aesthetic tends more toward a fragmented visual, narrative, sound-scape form that might be as easily defined as art as it is science. Even when as an anthropology doctoral student, I was trying to do straight ethnography my mentors recognized what I was doing as some sort of artistic practice, so it’s more of an innate predilection than a choice. But when it comes to choosing what to do with the information I collect I choose always a more “artistic” output, because that’s the kind I’m more receptive to as a consumer…I’d rather read a novel, look at a painting, watch a play than read an academic article. I wholeheartedly believe we need to examine life, to collect data and learn, to understand deeply where we are and what is at stake – to see reality and understand it, but then we also have the responsibility to create, to change, to make our own, hopefully better reality. Roxanne Varzi




Sound installation, 2011

MP3, blindfolds

9 minutes



This work is a self-contained sound performance that involves the audience member blindfolding him or herself, then putting on headphones connected to an mp3 player and listening to the narrative loop of a “museum curator” in a gallery who offers to describe for our blinded audience a show she has done on war photography. Throughout is a guided meditation that interrupts the slideshow to relieve the observer of the visual burden.

We hear the curator describe the images as she advances through them on a slide projector. The images she has chosen are from prestigious shows of Western war photographers since 2001 when the United States went to war in the Middle East.


Departing from the idea that seeing is believing and moving toward the theories that Virginia Woolf and Susan Sontag espoused that visuals often mislead if not outright lead to complacency and even engender disaster, this project aims to “see” visuals from recent and ongoing wars without looking. The aim here is not to call out particular places or photographers, but to do the opposite, to somehow neutralize the terror inherent in a war photograph becoming a market commodity, and a work of art. Like Woolf and Sontag in their books, I believe it necessary to describe but not to show war photographs in order to understand and respect the power they hold. Most photographs taken of people in the public sphere are of suffering and most of that suffering is manmade. Leaving a notebook for the audience to comment on allows us to determine how iconic these particular photographs have become in the past few years, if at all.

Do the observers recognize them, even in their most muted form –metaphor? What can we sense about mortality and morality — about war when we allow ourselves to be blinded? When we are forced to listen and imagine? When we stop privileging visuality and heighten our sense of sound? Can it tame the violence of the art? Can blindness lead us to a new kind of vision that would open a space for peace, love and beauty? This sound work will loop through a history of the present moment to bring us back to our originary question: is seeing believing? Perhaps the greatest pinnacle of vision resides in blindness. Just as the loudest message is born in silence.