“Your umbilical cord is cut twice, once when you are born and once when your mother dies.”

A Neon Light and Sound Installation

On View October 3rd -18th

reception on October 6th at 6pm

Sarah Ema Friedland, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and MacDowell Colony Fellow, presents the inaugural exhibit of an electrifying neon light and sound installation, titled “Your umbilical cord is cut twice, once when you are born and once when your mother dies.” This affecting work explores the nuanced tapestry of motherhood, fertility challenges, adoption, abuse, love, and mortality.

The project’s title originates from a saying she heard from her mother, underscoring the emotional and energetic connections formed within the matrilineal lineage and female bonds. Through a recorded conversation between the artist, their mother, and their sister, this installation unfolds as a portrait of the women in their family. As the soundscape fills the space, it corresponds with neon sculptures, each voice triggering a different colored thread of neon. These threads converge at the center of the installation, forming a pulsating knot of light, symbolizing a tangled neon umbilical cord.

A respected filmmaker whose new film LYD recently premiered at the Amman Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary and the FIPRESCI prize from the International Critics Association, this is a thrilling new chapter in Friedland’s work as a media artist. She chose the installation format to prioritize the power of sound. Visitors will be surrounded by the voices and stories, creating an immersive experience that draws them into the narrative. The fragility and electric colors of the glass, neon sculpture mirror the intricate relationships between parents and children – full of vibrancy and energy yet breakable.

This work was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and was made possible with the support of UrbanGlass and UnionDocs.


Kaija Siirala– Sound Edit and Sound Design

James Ackers– Technology Developer

About the Artist: Operating on a firm belief that reality has been messed with since people started telling stories and writing histories, Sarah Ema Friedland’s work is rooted in non-fiction but often uses the vocabularies of speculative fiction and fantasy to tweak and re-imagine reality. Using film, video, collage and animation in single screen and multi-channel work, she sees this as a political and playful act that simultaneously reclaims power from both dominant narratives and dominant modes of storytelling to make way for something different. Her work has been screened and exhibited at institutions including Cannes Film Festival, Lincoln Center, Anthology Film Archives, The DCTV Firehouse Cinema, PBS, the Tang Teaching Museum, The Chelsea Museum, The Queens Museum, The 14th Street Y, and the MIT List Center. Her works have been supported by grants and fellowships including Jerome, Paul Newman, Ford, NYSCA, the Palestine American Research Center, the LABA House of Study, and the MacDowell Colony. She was named one of the “Top 10 Independent Filmmakers to Watch” by the Independent Magazine, is a recipient of the Paul Robeson award from the Newark Museum, and was nominated for a New York Emmy. Her recent feature documentary titled Lyd, which she is co-directing with Rami Younis, premiered at the 2023 Amman International Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary and the FIBRESCI prize from the International Critics Association. Her work has been covered by Variety, The New York Times, Filmmaker Magazine, and The Brooklyn Rail. Friedland is a member of the Meerkat Media Collective and the Director of the MDOCS Storyteller’s Institute at Skidmore College where she is also a Teaching Professor in the MDOCS Program.

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