In the CurrentsMay 3, 2012
In the Currents, an exhibition of Iranian-American artists curated by Taraneh Hemami and Lucy Kalyani Lin, complicates and makes personal the ways in which Iran and Iranian culture are portrayed in much of Western media.
In Azin Seraj’s video installation, kaseye sabr labriz mishavad (bowl of patience, 2012), four Iranians speak about how their lives have been affected by the United Nations sanctions against Iran. Seraj layers the footage of the speakers with that of droplets of water filling a bowl, creating contorted and muddled images of the speakers, though their voices are clearly heard. Curiously, the visual rippling effect forces a viewer to concentrate on the intonation of words—even though only Farsi-speaking viewers are likely to understand them.
Farhad Bahram’s piece, Reciprocal Subject (2012), also complicates the view of its subjects. Like Seraj, Bahram empowers the subjects and makes them anonymous, but they share in the creation of the work. Bahram and each subject simultaneously took pictures of each other in open public spaces, and Bahram arranged the resulting color photos on a board in an apparent order or system that mimics a scrapbook, with names appearing beside each photo. Each of the faces is partially obscured by a camera, frustrating any viewer’s desire to identify the subjects. The public spaces that serve as backdrops add an additional level of neutrality and anonymity. Still, there is a complicity that only exists between Bahram and each subject, leaving viewers curious about their relationship.
Another notable piece, Flag (2012), from Sanaz Mazinani’s series “Conference of the Birds,” uses photographic images to create a patterned flag reflective not of a particular region but of a specific idea. Her flag is rooted in solidarity as opposed to being grounded in a specific physical location. The repeated images coalesce to form a tightly knit pattern that creates a visual mesh of people, places, and cultures. Mazinani’s work, along with that of Seraj and Barham, blurs the expected lines of perception and demands that viewers participate in the act of seeing not only their works but also their culture.
In the Currents is on view at the Asian Resource Center Gallery, in Oakland, through June 15, 2012.
Dorothy Santos is a freelance art writer based in San Francisco. She holds a BA in both Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco.