Cromwell Place, Gallery 10
4 Cromwell Place, London
SW7 2JE, United Kingdom
A solo exhibition of recent photographs from Iranian photographer Mohammad Ghazali (b. 1980, Iran). Ghazali’s work has been widely exhibited and written about and is held in prominent collections, including the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.
Ghazali’s deceptively simple works exist in a shape-shifting space between visual storytelling and archaeology - where the viewer becomes an active participant in the creative act of revealing the dormant potential buried in each image. He says of the process, ‘Experimentation makes the world of the artist fresh and raises questions like a child who experiences the world for a long time without knowing its rules without fear of being judged.’
Working largely in series, Ghazali takes us to unexpected and often improbable viewpoints where we are invited to stand in a place just outside normal time or reality, with previous works ‘borrowing’ the exact viewing point of public statues - or empty shop windows in Teran. The act of viewing and the process of preserving or revealing an image, is usually one of documenting and marking our presence in time. Ghazali’s work starts with the premise that our choices and interpretations of such images aren’t set in stone and instead, plays with these shifts and evolutions of perception and narrative.
In Persepolis: 2560-2580, Ghazali intercepts the viewer with a series of monochromatic images which taken at face value, along with documentation used to reinforce their authenticity, are a photo-documentary of the construction of the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. The date, 2560-2580 – refers to the solar calendar of Iran and the coronation date of Cyrus, the first Achaemenid king of Persepolis in 559 BC, fusing a point in ancient history with now. Are we really viewing something at the margins of imagined time and if we are, what might it be like to stand in that place and observe as Ghazali’s camera has?
Ghazali also ponders on the dual meaning of the structures we observe in these works which are actually of the construction site of a modern road in Teran. Roads are also devices of communication, conveying goods as well as ideas, language and culture. Persepolis was once the ceremonial capital of the vast Persian/ Achaemenid Empire and stood on the silk Road, a route connecting the East and West of the Ancient world and an artery for the transmission of ideas and culture. Where is our modern road taking us to and from and in this world of instant communication, how do we truly share and listen to ideas outside our immediate lived experience? We are used to regarding photography as intrinsically ‘real’ and the past as a fixed and immovable fact but history and our understanding of it is not static and we are active participants in both creating and understanding the past. Contemporary media constantly intercepts and manipulates our understanding of the world around us. We may feel that we are being presented with facts but how much of this is a actually a creative act with an agenda?
Ghazali refers to George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984 to underline the importance of history making: “Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?'.....(if) we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'
Ghazali wants to sow seeds of doubt and for us to question what we believe we see and how we choose to understand and interpret it. Like the photographer, we are all really authors, re-writing our experience and understanding of the world around us. We are standing in a continual process of history making and the world we inhabit today exists as an echo chamber of sights, patterns and experience which could be recognised and interpreted 2,000 years in the past - or in the future.