Reza Aramesh's take on the rebellious subject
Advanced not as an agitprop but as an aesthetic intervention, Whistle of the Souls, a play that never starts: proposal for a public sculpture, was a solo exhibition by Reza Aramesh that lasted from March 17 to April 8, 2014. Curated by Ali Bakhtiari, this was more like an excavation of history which has never been told the way the artist thought it needed to be told. The host, Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai, UAE, facilitated the artist who was intent on turning the exhibition into a haunting site dedicated to the memorialization of the disappeared.
Aramesh's site-specific exhibition centers on a single figure sculpted in white marble, entitled Action 137: 6:45 pm, 3 May 2012, Ramla. Installed in a warehouse on the edge of Dubai's industrial neighbourhood, the work is intended as a proposal for a public sculpture. An adjacent slide projection piece, entitled Action136: 'Put this in your record: I'm present!,' further demonstrates Aramesh's polemical exploration of the relationship of power with violence.
The installation features a male figure sourced from reportage. His face is covered by his torn t-shirt. He is standing on a concrete block situated in the center of a warehouse, the walls of which are painted black. The compelling composition of the sculpture is a crucial aspect of Aramesh's art as a whole. Vacillating between reserved commentary and incisive critique, the artist uses vocabulary of Baroque art to reconstruct a current political act of violence. The work is, at the same time, a departure from traditional Baroque sensibility in that this marble sculpture is not displayed in an opulent environment. Instead, Aramesh contrasts his figure against the sombre black walls of this industrial space.
Aramesh's installation suggests the vulnerability of a rebellious subject by placing a smaller than life marble sculpture in the midst of this large stand-alone warehouse.
Yet, in producing/projecting a monument through a single event, he seamlessly universalizes repression and anguish.In addressing a long history of artistic representations of suffering, the artist collages cross-cultural references to link contemporary political violence to key chapters from art history.
Unlike Baroque sculptures, most of which were commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church and the aristocracy as a means of expressing their claims to power and control,
Aramesh is proposing a monument of an unknown rebellious civilian. The Porter's Room serves as an antechamber to display a selection of reportage photographs, which have been manipulated and rendered into slides by the artist. Depicted, are blindfolded subjects held in isolation before the backdrop of a natural landscape, with all oppressive protagonists removed. These conscious alterations shift the relationship between the viewer and the subject. Looking itself can here be construed as an act of aggression. This piece explores the conceptual relationship between the illumination of the slide projector and the subjects in the photographs who have been denied light. The viewer is a witness to the various environments that the blindfolded are denied access to.
The title is inspired by Saadallah Wannous's 1967-1968 play, An Entertainment Evening for June 5th, which is about the opening night of a play entitled Safir al-Arwah – The Whistle of the Souls, a play within a play that never actually starts. Iranian born Reza Aramesh's photographic, sculptural and performance works have received international attention.
He has exhibited in many public and private spaces including, the Tate Britain; the Haifa Museum of Art, Israel;, the Palais des Arts et du Festival, France; and the Goethe Institute, Brussels. The recipient of numerous awards, he has also participated in art fairs and showed with galleries worldwide, and his works are in the permanent collections of the Devi Art Foundation, India and the Nadour Collection, Germany, among others. He currently lives and works in London.
Text, courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai, UAE.