Apart from the fairytale aspect, the images also conjure associations of other metamorphoses in western culture: in Richard Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin, the knight in shining armour, epitome of the German ur-myth, is carried on a boat drawn by a swan that later turns out to be Gottfried. For her own performance, Forouhar has aptly chosen the town of Bad Ems on the river Lahn in Germany. In her photos, however, the swan is not a prop from a staging of Lohengrin, but an ordinary pedal-boat by the name of Hugo, as we can read in some of the pictures. Forouhar appropriates this ur-German myth and quite literally alienates it by confronting it with the veiled woman who is marked out as foreign and ‚other’.
At the same time, the pedal-boat foils the reference to the myth of Leda and the swan, in which the god Zeus seduces the beautiful virgin Leda in the guise of a swan. Here, however, in an inversion of such fertility myths, it is not Zeus who covers the woman, but the chador that spreads out ornamentally over the swan. Nevertheless, some traditional visual structures of the Leda motif are recognisable, such as the long, curving neck of the swan echoing the figure of the woman and her robe.
Forouhar’s work, with its manifold references to German culture and to Greek mythology as the so-called cradle of western civilsation, adopts a wealth of significations by which western society constructs and defines its identity. This work by Forouhar is clearly aimed at a western audience, or at viewers familiar with western cultural traditions, whereas in Iran, the different cultural context would stand in the way of these interpretative associations.
Another reference in this work is the title’s reflection of the road movie Easy Rider (USA 1969) in which two bikers set off in search of the real America but, according to the film poster, „couldn’t find it anywhere“. The country they travel is by no means the land of opportunity and the land of the free. The film also uses visual markings to address discrimination and otherness. Such references undermine the fairytale idyll of the swan gliding along the calm waters of the Lahn.
Text by Alexandra Karentzos translated by Ishbel Flat