Thursday, 10 June 2010


Born 1976, Tehran Iran

Is a contemporary artist living and working between Tehran and New York

SARA RAHBAR was born in Tehran in 1976, but fled her birthplace during the period of immense upheaval that followed the revolution in Iran and the start of the Iran-Iraq war. This distance, this proximity is developed by the artist, based on memory, longing and inertia in inhabiting tensions of dual disjuncture. Rahbar studied in London and New York, and now spends most of her productive life between Tehran and New York. In this going back and forth, an apocalyptic memory has been revised in her reworking of traditional materials into proto-contemporary textiles and textures of national belonging. The symbol of ideological and nationalistic violence, the Flag, has been one of the main focuses of her collage conversations and contestations.

Multiplying the number of possible readings by drawing on heritage provides a diachronic innovation within which interpoetic relations are realizable- both on the level of aesthetic inventions from multiple sources and in how styles and ideas illustrate certain realities- of geographies, of hope and of history. In routing the audience through the multiple spaces that one image can occupy, Rahbar manages to provide a matrix within which a cultural translation and contradiction is articulated. By curating tradition, these beautiful flags attract both the western gaze and allow for an aesthetic dynamism to be exemplified. We begin with attraction and end up being repulsed within the same moment of negotiating her works- in refusing the atrocious to be removed from the works, Rahbar creates a political power that imbues her statement about seeing and being.

In one of her recent statements, she states, Our foundations lay, but our houses have burned to the ground. Building castles in the sky, for a species that cannot fly, brick by limb we tear it down. Thinking that we are moving forwards, yet moving backwards all along. Gajar woman and golden toys, we wait for dawn. Even within this contemporary evocation, across borders and palpitating with barbarism, her constant vigilance regarding the fallen past and an unrealized future remain the means of her economic reality and her imagination. The global neighborhood, she inhabits, where disenfranchisement through plight and flight are becoming important, offer fragments by which we understand the configurations of the US version of free trade and democracy.

Text Written by: Shaheen Merali


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