Ab-Anbar presents “Masterplan”, the first solo exhibition of Iranian artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani at the gallery, presenting a body of work encompassing the artist’s interest and long-standing research on language and systems of meaning. Working and living in Canada, after holding a number of exhibitions and residencies in different geographies, Avarzamani’s work as a whole belongs, in the context of Iran, to a category of its own, operating beyond the constraints of the medium, anchored in research-based and concept-driven practices that explore questions of cultural and political discourse from the very center of their configuration, offering us a serious analytical model to break down the constructions of social reality into their constituting parts.
More than a traditional exhibition, “Masterplan” is an experiment in perception, testing the limits of language in terms of games and play; what is the role that communication plays in the historical and symbolic construction of games as complex systems that reproduce and articulate reality as a whole, through a limited number of combinations, phenomena and why not say it, illusions of perception. A game is conceived here not only as a benign or didactic strategy, but as a structure of power in which language, or any system of meaning configuration, is dovetailed in such a way that the representation or imagination of reality, matches an ideological status quo which is maintained through the manipulation of such reality’s markers.
This tripartite exhibition consists of three parts, two earlier projects and a new body of work to be shown at Ab Anbar for the first time, and ultimately connected through the idea of the ‘game’: The installation “Engeeleesee” (2014) makes reference to the books used to learn English in Persian schools, modeled on educational textbooks from the colonial period and through which the artist skillfully shows the meta-linguistic nature of an apparently innocuous occupation, placing functional labor at the center of a mediation process between authority and truth. These manuals, as prescriptive manuals for civilization, enable the artist to showcase colonialism and its psychological mechanisms as something beyond politics: It is the absolute conquest of the real.
Accordingly, in the project “Commonwealth” (2013), a large-scale embroidered patchwork on quilt, conceived in the style of the traditional storytelling cloth-on-the-wall paintings from Iran, Avarzamani is looking at the process and concept of history against its European background, and without irony. The artist returns hereby to the problem of language versus politics, questioning how history is constructed not from knowledge but from information, and deconstructing the notion of historiography as an ideological fabrication. What does civilization ultimately mean and why does the language of civilization become identical with hegemony of power? ‘Commonwealth’ blends symbols from both traditional epic and Western history, presented in a dialectical narrative.
In Avarzamani’s most recent works, specially commissioned for the exhibition, “Game of Goose” (2016) and “The Fortune Teller/Cardinal Triangle” (2016), the artist is looking at the history and performativity of board games, and the ideological role they have played as sinister structures of power in the conquest of the real that her critique of colonialism has pinpointed earlier on. The “master plan” becomes clear: A situation possibly real but logically implausible leading to the dissolution of meaning, as a paradigm for the current mechanisms of social and political control we experience in our contemporary situation; a particularly clever upgrade from the brute force of the colonial era. Game as paradox does not only produce ambiguity; it estranges the subject from its own reality world.
Ghazaleh Avarzamani (b. 1978, Tehran) was trained in painting at the Azad Art University in Tehran, following by an MFA at Central Saint Martins, she lives and works in Toronto and her work has been exhibited in Iran and internationally since 2000. Solo exhibitions include Asia House London (2014), Etemad Gallery, Tehran (2013) and Light Gallery, London (2013). Group exhibitions include Artmark Gallery, Vienna (2016), RCA Secret, Art Dubai (2016), and Manpower Art Festival 16, Lisbon (2016). Avarzamani has been the recipient of the Red Mansion Art Prize, Royal College of Art, London (2013) and Red Gate Gallery Residency (2013); she curated the group exhibition ‘Jabberwocky’ (2015) at Ab-Anbar. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog featuring essays by Daniella Rose King and Arash Fayez. The exhibition runs from November 18 through December 16.