19 Jul 2019 – 4 Aug 2019

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In an uncanny, site-specific installation Ali Sayah and Siavash Dodeir imagine the merging of two worlds, that a Shia Muslim Center and of a brothel, which for 15 years coexisted in complete oblivion of each other as neighbours in a Neukölln street.


Centrum was founded in 2009 on premises which before had been used as a brothel since the mid-1990s. Around the same time, in 1993, just across the street, the Imam Riza Berlin Islamic Centre was founded. 2009 saw their expansion into a three-floor building. The Centre created a space that catered to the spiritual needs of Shia Muslims; while the brothel provided sexual services for the low-income inhabitants of the not-yet-gentrified Neukölln. The people frequenting the religious centre and those visiting the brothel were completely unaware of what went on across the street during the fifteen years of their coexistence. Thus, the title "Carved" refers to the nooks, niches and spaces which different groups and communities in a pluralistic society carve out for themselves. In an uncanny, site-specific and immersive installation Ali Sayah and Siavash Dodeir imagine those worlds colliding and merged together. 

Using sound and colours inspired by Ashoura, the most elaborate Shia ceremony, the space is made to look, smell and sound like spaces similar to Imam Riza Centre, which the artists have experienced during their life in Iran. Decorative elements on the walls of the former brothel are reconstructed as a band of images, texts and videos about the brothel, Shiism and its rituals, and the history of Centrum. The main work in the centre of the space incorporates elements from both aesthetic worlds, of Shiism and prostitution. When they moved in, the founders of Centrum tore down a black painted wall with a small window shielding what occurred inside the brothel from passers-by and replaced it with a large shop window. In "Carved" the artists reinstall this barrier, but replace the small window with a video. Shia Muslims traditionally make a saffron rice pudding called Shole Zard, decorate it with calligraphy or patterns made out of cinnamon powder, and serve them out to their neighbours and relatives on special occasions. During the opening, the same ritual will be performed with an artistic twist for all visitors to taste.

Exhibiting artistsToggle

Ali Sayah

Siavash Dodeir


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