UNCSA presents “The Tree I Carry,” an immersive experience by Filmmaking faculty member Shahin Gorgani

The School of Filmmaking and the Media + Emerging Technology Lab (METL) at UNCSA in partnership with the Museum of Understanding Storytelling and Engagement (MUSE) Winston-Salem will present the immersive installation “The Tree I Carry” by Filmmaking faculty member Shahin Gorgani. With support from the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, the free, three-day exhibition will feature five separate spaces fitted with unique imagery, sounds and scents that capture the essence of Iran, Gorgani’s home country.

The event will take place from 4 - 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 19-21, at the Kenan Institute for the Arts’ Creative Community Lab, 300 S. Liberty Street. Tickets are free with registration online or by calling the UNCSA Box Office at 336-721-1945. 

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

“’The Tree I Carry’ is imbued with the essence of being beyond the borders of Iran,” said Gorgani. “It comprises a treasury of images, dreams and sounds that I bear within. It unveils a journey through the realms of time and space, refusing to be anchored solely to the boundaries of what is deemed real or imagination.”

The installation will consist of five rooms which will each feature videos that explore memories and dreams through the lens of Iranian culture, with elements of poetry, landscape, music, dance and taste. Students and faculty from UNCSA assisted in the development and performance-related elements of the project.

The first room, “The Dreams We Don’t See,” explores the idea of wandering through another person’s dreams, what those images mean to an individual’s reality and how they may or may not resonate with audience members. Iranian artists Azadeh Navai, Mehrdad Motejali, Hamed Hosseini Sangari, Maryam Takhtkeshian, Yasman Alipour and Kimia Jamshid captured the footage and recorded the vocals for this piece.

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

The second room, “Amidst the trees, a dance unfolds,” is a multilayered dance project with LED visuals. It explores the boundary between reality and imagination as a woman embarks on a journey through shifting landscapes. This experience is intended to be a dream in motion. Third-year Dance student Trisha Mohta is the featured performer in this piece. The cinematographer is Richard Philips and creative consultants include Filmmaking staff members Asa Gordon and Dante Armstrong.

The third room, “The Tree I Carry,” takes the form of a mockumentary that embarks on an exploration of the hypothetical and brings forward the question of “What defines the enigmatic concept of 'home'?” Performers in this piece include Iranian filmmaker and actor Mohammad Aghebati, Bita Sereshki and Gorgani.

The fourth room features “A symphony of scents,” a sensory experience where unfamiliar and familiar fragrances will be present as attendees explore the space. Additionally, the video presentation of “When Trees Share Secrets” will feature poetry that brings forth the concept of sharing language and what that means to visitors.

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

Still from "The Tree I Carry" installation / Photo: Shahin Gogani

The fifth room, titled “In the Company of Trees,” captures the essence of Iranian women and their ongoing struggle with identity. It spotlights the contemporary shifts in Iran, delving into the complexities of masculinity within its culture, and the role it plays in today's landscape. The video is produced by Lydia Hicks and Gorgani.

This installation shows how effective and creative immersive tech can be in telling personal stories.” said Bob Keen, the creative director of “The Tree I Carry” and director of visual effects and immersive media.

About Shahin Gorgani

Shahin Gorgani is a filmmaker, musician and actor from Iran, most recently based in Los Angeles. He has acted in several plays by Iranian playwright Bahram Beyzaie. He has performed in concerts with Grammy-nominated Keyhan Kalhor, Shams Ensemble at the Lincoln Center and other accomplished Iranian musicians. He’s served on the jury for the Guadalajara International Film Festival and has previously taught at California Institute of the Arts from which he holds an M.F.A. in film directing.

About the School of Filmmaking

Consistently recognized as among the nation’s best training programs for filmmakers, the School of Filmmaking has produced some of today’s most creative storytellers.

The award-winning faculty have decades of real-world experience and a passion for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in concentrations that include animation, cinematography, directing, film music composition, picture editing and sound design, producing, production design and visual effects, and screenwriting. Students are able to develop individualized portfolios through collaborations with other students from different disciplines which enables them to learn industry standards and protocol, and practice their craft on state-of-the-art sound stages and studios with professional equipment. Through the curriculum, faculty and staff are able to connect students with visiting guest artists and gain exclusive access to never-before-seen films, shows and scripts. The film school’s Media + Emerging Technology Lab (METL) is dedicated to the exploration and production of immersive storytelling content. Students have the added benefit of annual trips to Los Angeles and New York City to connect with industry professionals. The film school also maintains partnerships with the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem and the Sundance Film Festival.

Notable alumni from the School of Filmmaking include Vera Herbert (“This is Us,” “Don’t Make Me Go”); Danny McBride (“The Righteous Gemstones,” “Eastbound & Down”); David Gordon Green (the “Exorcist” and “Halloween” franchises, “Manglehorn”); Zach Seivers (“Nomadland,” “Raymond & Ray”); Brett Haley (“Hearts Beat Loud,” “The Hero”); Rebecca Green (“It Follows,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams”); Jody Hill (“The Righteous Gemstones,” “Vice Principals”); Jeff Nichols (“The Bikeriders,” “Loving” ); Martha Stephens (“To the Stars”); Aaron Katz (“Land Ho!” “Gemini”); Kaitlyn Ali (“Queen & Slim,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7”); Tim Orr (“Raising Victor Vargas,” “Joe”); Will Files (“The Batman,” “Stranger Things”); and Zoë White (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Westworld”).

About the Media + Emerging Technology Lab

The Media + Emerging Technology Lab (METL) was founded in 2017 at UNCSA. It serves as a catalyst in the School of Filmmaking to envision and enact discourse between art education and community connectivity. METL projects explore the intersection of art and commerce in the paradigm-shifting space of interactive storytelling.

About MUSE Winston-Salem

Formerly the New Winston Museum, this newly named, relocated museum is Winston-Salem’s history museum. Its mission is to unite the community through conversation and connection.

About Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts

The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts was established in 1993 to strengthen the arts by initiating and incubating new ideas within the various constituencies and settings of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). By leveraging the extraordinary talents and creative energies of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to bring distinction to UNCSA, the Kenan Institute acts as a springboard to the broader creative community. For more information visit www.uncsa.edu/kenan.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), established in Congress in 1965, is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States.

The NEA’s primary activities include grantmaking to nonprofit arts organizations, public arts agencies and organizations, colleges and universities, federally recognized tribal communities or tribes, and individual writers and translators. Grant applications are reviewed by panels of arts experts and individuals from across the country. All grants must be matched one-to-one by nonfederal sources, except for individual grants to writers and translators. NEA funding is appropriated by Congress annually.

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October 13, 2023