Yusuf Misdaq 

Open Studio | Performance | Meditation
Charleston, SC | Spring 2023

FSA Artist-in-Residence Yusuf Misdaq’s spring residency in Charleston was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad’s “The Letter of Ashtiname,” (623 CE) including his open studio (featuring both in-process and completed works), a live performance at FSA’s Garden Party, and a Sufi meditation.

Directed to a group of Christian monks who resided in an ancient monastery on Mt. Sinai, “The Letter of Ashtiname,” goes at lengths to elevate the status of Christians, guaranteeing their safety, ensuring their protection and rights. It highlights the Prophet Muhammad’s immense compassion, generosity, and unifying vision for the world, which Misdaq feels has been historically misunderstood. (A copy of the original letter and English translation is below in the links under “Read”). Misdaq’s project “Ashtiname” is the title of the live performance and work exhibited at his FSA open studio. 

Open Studio + Performance

Misdaq’s open studio exhibited a collection of works ranging in mediums that reflect his creative process and play between sonic, poetic, technological, and physical materials: a series of digital prints (“Tajjali,” 2023), a website (“Eternal Poetry,” ongoing) and a film screened upstairs in his living quarters (“Ocean of Safety,” 2014).

“Tajalli” was developed using a multi-layered process consisting of digital collage, AI, and photography. Originally creating 14 prints, Misdaq selected six particular works for this particular narrative series depicting the dissolution of the self in prayer and meditation. While the images have individual titles, Misdaq chose to exhibit these works without captions on the gallery wall, framing them with wood that he foraged from construction sites throughout downtown Charleston.  


Along the back studio wall, Misdaq featured a collage of poems penned and painted on a milieu of surfaces – paper, napkins, disposable plates, and fabric.

Along the back studio wall, Misdaq featured a collage of poems penned and painted on a milieu of surfaces – paper, napkins, disposable plates, and fabric. Adjacent to his poetic installation was a high table that Misdaq constructed during his residency with found wood. Featured on this standing desk was Misdaq’s interactive website Eternal Poetry,” which he conceived while living in Hawaii, intended as a tribute to the Divine aspect of “orderly randomness,” as well as an archive of his daily practice of poetry and song lyric composition. (Documentation of his studio in the video below).

Upstairs was a screening of Misdaq’s experimental feature-length film “Ocean of Safety,” a montage that splices and re-mixes over 200 classic films and TV shows. It is a philosophical, humorous, and offbeat tapestry on the meaning of existence, as informed by Sufi philosophy. It stars Michael Douglas as “Humanity.” 

During the FSA open studio, Misdaq played ambient soundscapes leading up to his performance at the midpoint of the Garden Party. Echoing his artistic process, where live creation, ideation and musical/poetic sketches are continually occurring, Misdaq’s sound sculptures prefaced his two songs, “Reliquary in Green” + “Get Great,” combining mesmerizing synth and chanting with spoken word. Reflects Misdaq in his interview featured below: “My project is essentially music. But music with the spirit of, almost liquid, spirit of togetherness. Like we are in a glass of tea together – we are all one. The ingredients of the tea – the water, the sugar – it is dissolved. We are all one.”


On Saturday, April 29th, Yusuf Misdaq led a Sufi meditation at the Unitarian Church of Charleston (UU). A public program, hosted by the house of worship, Misdaq gave a talk, illuminating various practices that make up Sufi meditation, culminating in leading the participants in a circle of rhythmic circular chanting (“dhikr”) and breath control that reverberated beautifully throughout the Church. Misdaq was also invited to give an artist talk at the Hindu Temple of Charleston, another testament to the interfaith focus of his residency. 

Cover image: Yusuf Misdaq, “Eternal Poetry,” ongoing. Desk assembled from found wood, monitor, webpage.

Above left image: Yusuf Misdaq, “Ashtiname Letter and Open Studio,” 2023.


Program Documentation + Select Images