Sarah Brahim. Sometimes we are eternal

Sarah Brahim. Sometimes we are eternal

“Sometimes we are eternal”, brilliant first solo show by Saudi American artist and dancer Sarah Brahim at the Villa Helleneum-Bally Foundation in Lugano, curated by Vittoria Matarrese, seems to be the ultimate metaphor for life, harmonizing the interplay between physical and spiritual, action and introspection, hardship and tranquility.

Sarah Brahim, “Adagio”, 2 channels video, 2023, photo Andrea Rossetti, courtesy Villa Heleneum – Bally Foundation, Lugano

When asked about how she proceeded to imagine this site specific exhibition, Sarah Brahim explained that she first imagined the display and format of the installations in function of the spaces, before thinking of the content of the works, taking in this way to the next level the power relation between form and essence, intent and action, blurring the boundaries, and creating holistic works leading to sensorial, introspective, emotional and meditative experiences. Almost in osmosis with the indolent lake it faces, the exhibition unfolds organically between the floors of the Villa through various multimedia installations and photographs that split between “Rhythm and Matter”,  “Memory and Disappearance”, all equally striking in their spectacular simplicity.

Sarah Brahim, “Sometimes we are eternal”, 2023, photo Andrea Rossetti, courtesy Villa Heleneum – Bally Foundation, Lugano

The first corpus of works, on the first floor, focuses on the various forms of connections that movements and physical presence can inhabit within human relationships. In The second Sound of Echo, the artist explores those ties, with her father “evoking how one body existed before the other, how both existed simultaneously, and how one will inexorably disappear, while the other continues on”. As Vittoria Matarrese explained, it also expands in a wider way to the universality of bodies and matter, nature and landscapes, energies of motions and aspirations. In this regard with the first installations the audience is led to discover, recall the stops one might encounter on their journey toward infinity. Moreover,  in the video-sculpture project She said, it’s always two bodies, inspired by the six months spent studying the work and unique practice of American composer Pauline Oliveros, Brahim explains that “the central idea behind this project is exploring the connection between sound and its impact on our emotions”. The initial story involves a child playing in an apartment, accidentally causing a table to fall and make two distinct sounds – the table hitting the ground and a guardian’s reaction. In this sense, the work aims to capture the moment when something changes form, much like the child’s accidental incident. Instead of breaking, the sculpture, it represents the idea of a soft, graceful transformation, symbolizing the human struggle to accept change. It’s a metaphor for the difficulty one can face in understanding and accepting the inevitable changes in life, especially the end of life. The sculpture serves as a reminder that, despite the challenges, we can adapt and evolve.  This sculpture project is a personal reflection of the artist’s journey, including her experience of coping with the loss of her mother and embracing personal growth and transformation. It also symbolizes the universal struggle to accept change.

Sarah Brahim, “She said, it’s always two bodies”, video on sculpture, 2023, photo Andrea Rossetti, courtesy Villa Heleneum – Bally Foundation, Lugano

The second floor hosts, on the other hand, a series of installations around “Memory and Disappearance”, The first work presented, No wrong sounds, is a sensorial peregrination in time, through sound and rhythmic movements. In fact, in a true trip down memory lane, Brahim revisited her childhood passion of tap-dancing by assigning to a group of children simple tasks, like mimicking their heartbeats or the sound of a river, fostering individual expression while harmonizing with one another. The sensorial and contemplative voyage extends in this way via the materiality of memories and the intangibility of the present. Mesmerizing, The Lightroom, induces the audience in a state of sweet transcendent introspection, before inviting it to enter in a double vision/perception of a moment, with Adagio, which is composed of two videos. One shows Brahim walking slowly by the beach with a camera mounted on her chest, the other reveals what was captured by that same camera, the sea’s rhythm synced with the artist’s breath connecting her vulnerability to the elements. Finally in an attempt to explore involuntary forgetting, blocked memories, and the process of moving forward, He said, we must forget, showcases two parallel films created over a year. They intertwine and contrast, using hand-painting techniques, setting a compelling situation to question one’s capabilities to remember, or forget, to imagine or ignore.

Sarah Brahim, “The lightroom, sculpture”, 2023, photo Andrea Rossetti, courtesy Villa Heleneum – Bally Foundation, Lugano

Betwixt the astonishing natural background of the Lugano Lake, the beautiful Villa Helleneum, originally built for a Dancer, just like Brahim, the sensitive presentation and ethos of the works, in perfect equilibrium between profound reflection and powerful spirit and spirituality,  this first collaboration between Sarah Brahim and Vittoria Matarrese is remarkable in its well thought audacity, and engaging exploration. “Sometimes we are eternal” is a true experience, in the midst of strong visuals, entrancing soundtracks, tripping performances, these immersive installations guide the audience, to the rhythm of hidden dancing steps, through acceptance and remembrance, while preparing to look forward, always.

Yasmine Helou


Sarah Brahim, Sometimes we are Eternal
27/10/2023 – 23/04/2024
Bally Foundation
Villa Heleneum Via Cortivo 26 6976 Lugano


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