Outdoor hanging sculpture

Yassi Mazandi, Language of the Birds, 2022, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Yassi Mazandi, photo courtesy of the artist

Yassi Mazandi’s Language of the Birds Brings a Mystical Persian Poem to Life

July 18, 2022
Alexander Schneider, Assistant Editor

“The birds discover the simorgh

The thirty birds read through the fateful page
And there discovered, stage by detailed stage,

Their lives, their actions, set out one by one—
All that their souls had ever been or done”

The Language of the Birds, the epic 12th-century Persian poem by Farid al-Din ‘Attar, is a parable about a mystical quest for God, for a spiritual home, or for our own highest good—a quest which is undertaken by a group of 100 birds seeking a worldly ruler, the mythical Simurgh. By the end of the poem, 30 birds remain, only to realize that they themselves are the Simurgh, which in Persian means “thirty birds” (si murgh).

This otherworldly mission will be brought to life by the Los Angeles–based Iranian artist Yassi Mazandi, whose kinetic sculptural work taking its name from the epic poem will debut on LACMA’s Resnick Lawn on August 14. Taking the form of a flock of abstract figures cast in bronze and suspended in the air, Mazandi’s sculpture will not only evoke the birds on their search for meaning at the heart of ‘Attar’s poem, but, with their stark, featherless forms, suggest the very real avian species imperiled by climate change. The sculpture also reminds us that the dangerous flight of the fictional birds is not only paralleled by real-world animals, but by humans too: environmental issues like global warming are a major driving force for human migration, often leading to dangerous journeys made by immigrants who are frequently recieved with hostility at their destinations.

Visitors can view Yassi Mazandi’s Language of the Birds outdoors on the north side of the Resnick Pavilion near Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass beginning August 14, and can also hear Mazandi in conversation with artist Mohammad Barrangi on September 18.