Scheherazade or (Per)forming the Archive

Muriel Hasbun

2016 United States EXP 14 '

Scheherazade is an autobiographical and performative meditation on being an artist, and on the intergenerational transmission of cultural history in the construction of identity. Affirming the presence of the body of the ‘Other,’ my son’s heartbeats in utero join my mother’s last breaths. Shortly before I left El Salvador, I was asked to dance Scheherazade by the artist Julio Sequeira. At the time, I had no idea of Scheherazade’s bravery or incredible imagination. I could only focus on the sensual and erotic undertones that Rimsky Korsakov’s music conjured with its languid violin and tantalizing bells. I felt suffocated by the orientalist gaze. And I could not do the dance. In 2006, a few years after my father’s passing, I was reminded of my teenage Scheherazade and decided to play Scheherazade on my own terms. Like the mythic Scheherazade, telling stories would ensure my survival, set me free. But the video felt unfinished. This year, three years after my mother’s death, I am (per)forming it again, reflecting on the translations, the contradictions, the passage of time.


Muriel Hasbun’s expertise as an artist and as an educator focuses on issues of cultural identity, migration and memory. Hasbun’s awards and distinctions include: CENTER’s Curator’s Choice, Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, the Howard Chapnick Grant/W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund; Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards in Photography and in Media; a U.S. Department of State/AAM Museums Connect grant; Artist in Residences at the Centro Cultural de España, San Salvador and the Escuela de Bellas Artes, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Corcoran’s Outstanding Creative Research Faculty Award, and a Fulbright Scholar Grant. Hasbun’s work has been internationally exhibited: PINTA Miami, Civilian Art Projects, American University Museum, Centro Cultural de España, Maier Museum of Art, Light Work, Mexican Cultural Institute, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Museum of Photographic Art, FotoFest, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 50th Venice Biennale, Centro de la Imagen, Musée de l’Arles Antique at the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles. Similarly, her photographs are in numerous private and public collections, including the Art Museum of the Americas, District of Columbia Art Bank, En Foco, Lehigh University, Museo del Barrio, Smithsonian American Art Museum, University of Texas-Austin and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Building upon her career as a socially engaged artist and a photography professor, she is currently the founder and director of laberinto projects, a transnational, cultural memory initiative fostering contemporary art practices, social inclusion and dialogue in El Salvador and its U.S. diaspora.