A CLOSE-CIRCUIT TEXT WITH 10 FIGURES AND (NO) APPENDIX
Catalogue essay by Arash Fayez - November 2017
1. The reader is confronting with this text either in English or Persian (this part in the Persian translation should appear as “Persian or English”) . Part of “Masterplan” catalogue, this piece of writing forms a sort of agreement between the reader and the author. Both consent to communicate with each other through the language they choose to write or read; from left to right, or right to left (this part in the Persian translation should appear as “right to left, or left to right”). Yet, though language is commonly accepted as a tool for communication, it often operates as a system that leads to failure and confusion. This is why the author here uses the word confront. Dealing with a text is a challenge and language is the stage where problems and difficulties rise.
2. On October 4th, 2016, the artist emailed the author at 7:09PM (PST). Her message read:
Thanks (name of the author),
Hope I havent confused you though ;)
The notion of confusion which in a way opposes to the process of understanding and cognition is a very good approach.
I am always available if you need to skype.
3. The author invites the reader to imagine an impossible object. An impossible object is an optical illusion in which a two-dimensional figure appears as a three-dimensional object due to the instant and subconscious interpretation of our visual anatomy. There is no other way to encounter an impossible object than to mentally picture it. Projecting an object in one’s mind allows for exploring this latter according to a constructed establishment of meaning (a language) the reader created for him/herself . S/he envisions the object, rotates it, plays with its dimensions, texture and color, without questioning the physical infeasibility and unachievable materiality of impossible objects in general. Establishing this construction allows its builder to have full authority to design, modify, and manipulate the reality. At this stage, the reader has produced a closed network of self-determination and autonomy for him/herself, in other words freedom.
4. This is a closed-circuit text. It exclusively refers to “Masterplan” using internal interpretations and figures only connect the text to the outside. This is a constructed game created by the author to limit himself to the act of interpretation and explanation of meanings instead of mentioning or alluding to something.
5. The author imagines the artist’s upcoming exhibition at Ab/Anbar. There is no other way for him to see “Masterplan” than to visualize it mentally. The author created a folder on his desktop titled GA_AA_Nov_2016. There are eight files in this folder: a mix of PDFs, JPEGs, and DOCX files. These documents are aimed to help the author explore the language of the artist’s practice. The illusion of accessing the organization the artist created allows the author to envision his/her own arrangement of unknowns. This formation of meaning materialized by emails and shaped by visual projection and imagination is the author’s modus operandi to approach the artist’s practice, and assuredly not understand it. As any established structure comes with limits, the author’s methodology is not perfect, filled with holes, with interpretation lost in translation and surrounded with voids.
6. On October 2nd, 2016, the author wrote an email to the artist at 11:47AM (PST) as below.
Hi (name of the artist), thanks for all the materials! I'll spend some time reading and observing them this week. I’m actually interested in the confusion presented through the documents you shared, specifically the “visual encyclopedias.” I might try to create some sort of confusion to structure the text but not its context; hoping to start the writing this Friday and finish it by next. I will keep you posted. Till soon then, (name of the author)
7. Consider these few notes as the author’s personal point of view on the artist’s practice,
with “Masterplan” in the background.
8. It is as familiar as it seems to be strange when thinking of a traditional representation of a fragmented history in a mélange timeline; this is quite similar to the new logic for many online platforms nowadays to engage the user with multiple stories from different times at once. “Commonwealth” is not that different of this approach where she presents three major currents that have shaped Iran’s history: religion, monarchy and engagement with the west as a historiographical ornament. The artist patched a series of historical narratives and (mostly) flatten them into a surface where their overloaded meanings are reduced to visual elements. The enormous size of the piece is majestical, however it is in paradox of the blankness in the center. All the elements are moved to the periphery and the center of this quilt presents traces of removal and censored. Although the work as a whole is seen as a system for storytelling, the center of the piece (the place for the supreme ruler, the sovereign, the king, the emperor) is removed and made this part of the story unaccessible.
9. This form of removal and elimination is also presented in “The Fortuneteller/Cardinal triangle” where the object is reduced to a shape without any message to read or even look at. Again, the exaggerated size and duplicated reproduction of the object itself is playing an antithetical role by having no fortune to tell (and so to read). There are many, and they are bigger than usual; though without any message. All these fortune tellers
appear to be the exact same objects with the same note: nothingness. Their functionality (if we can call it this way) is now under questioned. The game of fortunetelling is reduced to a form of interpretation that allows the viewer (and not the reader; there is nothing to read) to see nothing and everything at the same time. The artist is placing the viewer in a bracket full of meanings and possibilities derived by the absent presence of a “term” on any of these fortune tellers. In contrary, “Game of Goose” is overwhelming by its elements, forms, and numbers. Without knowing the structure of the game, one can assume there is no alternative to engage with the geese unless s/he accepts to follow the rules determined by the visual language(s) presented on blue washcloths. Like “Commonwealth,” the attention and punctum (from Latin, literally ‘a point’) gravitates en route to the center where the numbers are leading the reader. Even if the viewer is denying to read the Latin numbers, the center visual is forcing both the reader and the viewer to lean towards there without playing the game. Underneath, the washcloths are quietly questioning the existence and reality of the game itself. Being made to clean and remove as its primary purpose, the blue fabric fundamentally reminds the player that the structure of power is not stable eternally.
10. To comprehend a work of (contemporary) art often requires some basic level of knowledge. Today’s contemporary art world is structured so artists, curators, and critics create contents prevailing mostly one language: English. This applies to the artist and the author as well: the author is writing this text in English, which a translator will later on translate into Persian, AND the artist uses the English language in the artworks (or at least Latin/Roman alphabet). For the artist, language functions as either a didactic approach (a set of words form a text) or a visual tactic (a set of symbols form an image) to engage with its audience.
11. On September 23rd, 2016, the author had a Skype conversation with the artist. They spoke Persian or Farsi (the choice of word here may depend on personal and cultural milieus, such as football or soccer). She was sitting in a dim room (probably her studio) in a city located, the author assumed, in North America. As much as they talked, she/he/they got more confused. The complexity became even more obvious when they continued their monologue-conversations in English over email this time.
12. For instance, the artist’s work “Eengeeleesee” addresses how English is been taught to others elsewhere. The title refers to the informal way to pronounce the word ‘English’ in Farsi. When this body of works is shown in Iran and other non-English speaking countries, a tacit expectation exists that the viewer understands this foreign language and can read the texts. Even if the viewer does speak AND read English, the separated book pages selected by the artist expose the deficiency of (teaching) a language itself. Reading lesson 1, the author (of this text and not the learning book) assumes that the British couple formed by Mr. and Mrs. Hunt would not need an English lesson to learn how to communicate with an immigration officer at the United Kingdom airport. For a foreigner/Iranian traveler visiting the UK, the answer to the officer’s question “Are you British” could be “No, I’m not British. I’m Iranian” instead of “Yes. I’m British.” The English language taught in the book is malfunctioning for the foreigner reader. For the viewer who cannot read the text, the lessons have become illegible forms and shapes and visuals disconnected from his/her reality. The language loses its practical function of communication and can only rely on assumptions, mistranslations and misinterpretations. The viewer no longer determines his/her own system of meaning. Creating an unreachable realm, the artist plays with notions of un/consciousness and mis/assumptions to push the viewer/reader to challenge languages, its rules and its dominant forces. Through a similar process than games, the viewer is left with a tabula rasa for formulating his/her own inception of definitions, gaining the ability (or its illusion) for reaching freedom.
13. It is crucial to reflect about Masterplan as a whole. Ab/Anbar is the stage for this arrangement and the viewer is operating as a machine that connects the dots for its personal and constructed narrative.
14. On October 9, 2016, the artist sent the author the email below at 6:32PM (PST).
Hey (name of the author), Havent heard from you for a while and wondering how things are going? we are getting closer to the dates and need to consider some time for translation erc. Please update me
(name of the artist)
15. The artist challenges the relations between readability and interpretation in “Apologies for understanding.” She plays with the presentation of letters and words (probably language) to question the potential when the message is unachievable, at least immediately. What IS readable here is out of the control of the artist. The viewer now decides where to write down the comma and the AND between letters to create a sentence, or rather a visual. The viewer AND reader can implement a repetitive form of construction (i.e. LIKE, LIKE, LIKE, ...) or a method of random breaks (AN, DAN, DA, ND, ANDA, NDA, NADA, NDA, NDA,...); or any other possible form of reading. The artist manipulates a language constitution and turns it into a linguistic game. The viewer sees and apprehends an image more than he/she reads a text. The viewer self-determines his/her system of definitions in which language has become the visual. The artist allows the viewer to lose the structure of meaning and decline the importance of the content. The language (and so the artist) here is not to tell what to read; it is the viewer who is deciphering what the semantic is.