View of white walls and an architectural overhang, with the words "ACT I" set in thin grey three-dimensional letters on the overhang.

Niloufar Emamifar

Iron Holds the Whale (A Play in Five Acts for the Hammer Museum) is the script for a play set in the named spaces of the Hammer Museum. Taking up the institutional practice of museum signage, Niloufar Emamifar writes set directions for a play that unfolds in these various interstitial spaces (a lobby, a terrace, a courtyard) adorned with donor names. Using the contractual delineation of each of these spaces as a stage for an act, she coopts the entire building as a set and a story. The set notes, installed near the signage for each act, purport to describe the space the visitor is standing in but do so inaccurately and instead build a fictional narrative that rewrites the setting of the museum and prompts readers to imagine a new scenario. The process of conceiving and negotiating the artwork—which is at the intersection of the exhibition space and the institutional space—expands Emamifar’s reflections on questions of ownership, publicness, and the legal status of museum territory.

In Made in L.A. 2020: a version, the artist’s work is present in two institutions, across Los Angeles. See Niloufar Emamifar's work on view at The Huntington.