Rabbit in Wonderland: Farideh Lashai

4 November - 9 December 2010

"How can we extract, from our beings, those dusty old memories - and with these broken, bloody nails and through the years of storms and whippings and the rains that have lashed our souls - the truth? I have not yet placed these broken beads side by side to reconstruct, perhaps, a moment in our history of today, so that our jaded countenances might be dazzled and the clarity and transparency might return to our hearts and faces." (Shâl Bâmou, Farideh Lashai, 2008).

 

If new artistic media are now entering Farideh Lashai's universe, from her earliest days as an artist she has juggled with varying means of expression, without recognising any frontiers that might confine her to a rigidly defined identity.

 

Fascinated by the cinema, today she is a storyteller, telling her own story through animated characters set against the background of her paintings in the four video art pieces on display at the IVDE Gallery to recount the pages of both her own history and that of modern Iran:

 A fragile, innocent rabbit appears in all four pictures and Farideh reveals, with great serenity and humor, streaks of hyper-sensitivity in the character, which we might also take to represent the Iranian nation. The tone is light-hearted but always brings a bitter smile to the viewer's lips.  "The Jackal is Here" (Shâl bâmou in the dialect of northern Iran), her novel published in Farsi in 2008, is also a voyage in time, the beginning and end of which are so far removed from one another that what lies between can only be conceived as a maelstrom of times and spaces, revolutions, ideologies, global movements and memories of childhood on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The same approach is found in these four animated pictures, linked together by the same sense of discontinuous time.

 First introduced at Art Dubai, the rabbit, alert and with its ears pricked up and eyes wide open to danger, is now an integral figure in the artist's imagination, reappearing since in different guises. Farideh explains this return to the use of video as resulting from her strong desire to make a film: her new techniques enable her to construct a story that runs between the works.

 

Each moment, each picture is made "tangible" by its own sense of time, contrasting with the rest of the time making up her life. Here, forms are words… and how well she transforms them into images as she writes!

The rabbit of the story gambols over the canvases to meet, in the first, the great figure in her History, Mosadegh. In a glacial atmosphere, the rabbit, panic-stricken twirls round the great man, asking questions about his fate in various languages: What happened? Que s'est-il passé? As if his panic was everyone's, that of the universe, of "the time of the ruins of ideals." The poetry in her pictures and the ideas they convey take their origin from the artist's own life: familiar with Persian literature and a young utopian in the Europe of ideas of the 60s.

 

Fear is one element part of Farideh's life - "That black stick, you have always felt it over your head like a fluttering flag," she writes in her novel, and shows it in the canvas inspired by the work of Sano-o-almolk, the great 19th century Iranian painter. The characters of the original painting are restored to life by Farideh with a continuity of ideas that renders them timeless. Book in hand, they nonetheless hold the stick of oppression in front of the curious rabbit, who tries to uncover them, gets hurt with each meeting and eventually leaves the canvas exhausted. Is it not the image of decades of ideology, doctrine and militarism that we see in the four minutes of video on the canvas that seems to have wearied its creator?

 

The inquisitive rabbit remains unstoppable, at his own risk. Pasolini's worldly talking raven that tries, in "Hawks and the Sparrows" to educate the people ends up killed and eaten. In the footsteps of Pasolini, desperately seeking hope in a world where all the birds, big or small, seek to tear up and devour each other, Farideh takes inspiration from the movie to stage a dialogue between the rabbit and the raven of ideology which, here, succeeds in convincing him and takes him away.

 

The map in the shape of a cat is really the artist's wonderland, a landscape it's hard to find a way into. Tens or even hundreds of rabbits try to enter, make it their country and find their way there. But wonderland is a land of trials and challenges. The cat-shaped map opens its mouth and one rabbit enters the wonderland, crosses the whole country and finds the way, from the cat's bottom, for all other rabbits which finally penetrate country.  In this last canvas, we find a degree of optimism in which the map of Iran nevertheless ends up invaded by Farideh's rabbits.

 

In the four works, music inspired by Pasolini's fim "Hawks and the Sparrows" incorporating Iranian and other oriental rhythms accompanies the characters in burlesque movements, filled with humor and irony. They gambol on the canvas, in an atmosphere of lyricism that nevertheless leaves room for reflections on power and ideology. 

 

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