Interview with Parastou Forouhar, Bree Richards, ATP7 Catalouge, 2012
Perhaps you could begin by discussing how you came to your life as an artist?
Looking back i would say, it was the bursting of the illusions of the revolution (1979) which have led me to my life as an artist. Maybe at the beginning I just wanted to escape from the fathomless disappointment and injury I felt. But over the time, Art has opened a space for critical perception and reflection to me and did not offer me a place to hide.
John Berger has said ‘The art of the past no longer exists as it once did. Its authority is lost. In its place there is a language of images. What matters now is who uses what language for what purpose’. This quote seems to resonate with your practice, which draws on an array of visual references past and present, and relates to the politics of visual representation. Do you have any response to that?
I hope that my practice resonate with Bergers illuminating quote. But in our time that crises grow rampant, finding and establishing the proper context is becoming increasingly complicated not to say impossible. The field of intercultural communication is ploughed by clichés and phrases. Each effort of intercultural interaction is endangered by its own abuse. Each effort balances between facts and delusion. For me as an artist every place given to me seems to be accompanied by a feeling of displacement. Swaying between optimistic activism and cynical reservation I realize the gaze that fixes me and the projection that alienates me. As a result, in my work, I have tried to distill this conflict of displacement and transfer of meaning, turning it into a source for creativity.
Your work in APT7 is a site-specific installation, another work in your Written room series, where you cover the surfaces of gallery spaces with elegant lines of Farsi script. The swirling calligraphy variously records names, fragments of words and memories. Given the meaning of the text is fragmented in this context, obscure even to those familiar with the language, what affect do you hope this will have on your audience?
Viewers entering the Written room are surrounded by patterns of an illegible language, forcing them to give up their sovereign and their distanced standpoint, which I hope would encourage them to question their perception of language and orientation. What at first glance might be understood as a loss of meaning, can instead be interpreted simply as abstract visual language – an environment that cultivates subjective experience.
You make works in a variety of media – photographs, digital drawings, textiles, installations – combining references both traditional and modern and often emphasising the deceptive surface of the ornament. What other themes, motifs and interests do you find yourself returning to in your practice?
What emerges again and again in my works is a tension between apparently harmless surfaces and the actually represented content.
At a first glance, very often I offer the viewer an image of a ornamentally beautiful and harmonized order; but at a closer look, it is precisely these salving and clichéd images which are underminded. It is about the simultaneity of beauty and harm and the ambivalent of their co-exhistance.
It is my way of tempting and irritating the viewers to bring them to give up their distanced and non-involved positions and re-think their presumptions – to bring them to bear up the very contadicting inputs and contasting emotions.
It seems that your practice is situated at the intersection of art, ideas, identity and politics – would you say that’s a fair characterisation? Do you see yourself as a political artist, or an artist who explores politics through the work? Are they one and the same thing?
I would say that i am a political intressted person and as an artist I explore politics in my work. But i see a fundamental difference between Politics and Art. One is commited to find answers as the other explors the existenial questions and dobts.