From the banks of the river called HOME
Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès
in occasion of the exhibition From the banks of the river called HOME
Centre D'Art Dominique Lang, Gare Dudelange-Ville, Luxembourg (2008, solo show)
The exhibition title implies an identity in flux: The notion of home is compared with a river i.e. something in current movement and change. At the same time, the title reminds us of the famous Indian proverb that you cannot enter the same river twice.
In his work, Iranian born artist, Shahram Entekhabi, chose to highlight those individuals who would ordinarily be marginalized, made invisible or forced into self-'ghettoisation' from the urban domain such as migrant communities and their culture, particularly the communities from the Middle East and their diaspora. The question of visibility and invisibility, therefore, has been a situation that the artist actively explores within his practice. Often, Entekhabi is performing himself in the various videos and photo based works. After a series of works where Entekhabi embodies various male migrant stereotypes (such as the migrant worker (e.g. Walkout, Alcazar et.all.), the "Islamic fundamentalist" (Islamic Star), the Kurdish freedom fighter (Mehmet), the Balkanese gangster (Mladen), the guerrilla fighter (Miguel) etc.), he recently became interested in the complex of human relations between couples of a migratory background and questions of human interaction (Who´s Afraid…, Dead Satellites).
The central piece in the Centre d´art in Dudelange is a series of drawings entitled "M", that show the naked body of the artist in often absurd, sometimes tragic interactions with a suitcase. The suitcase is a metaphor of travelling, movement and migration that plays a crucial role in a lot of Entekhabi´s works. In the drawings, all actions are related to the idea to get rid somehow of the stigma of being a migrant, at the same time it seems he cannot do it without the suitcase.
Going out from this - so to say - complex of self-inspection, two recent works about the impossibility of human relationship from a migratory perspective are included. While Who´s afraid does not include any dialogue but is a choreography of a love relationship that mugs between passionate love and bitter hatred, the work Dead Satellites tells the story of a Muslim couple, dressed up in western clothes, who are filled with hate against the "white" race in their environment. During the three chapters, "bint ‘amm" (inbreed*), "Jungle Fever" (after a film by Spike Lee (1991), that deals of the love and compassion between the races) and "Familycide" (an expression for a committed murder on relatives), the conflict potential between the partners gets worse. It evaluates into a bitter battle.
In addition, a number of objects are on show, such as Shahre Farang. Shahre Farang (Farsi for “checkered world”) is the name for a particular version of peep boxes in the Middle East that were in use for long centuries and up to the 1960s. The boxes offered the possibility to view an exhibition of pictures in the inside through a small hole and were usually traveled from village to village by the show-man. The box could be made out of metal in the shape of an oriental castle with several holes. It contained a set of pictures, which the show-man could move in the inside of the box by pulling the string. Common subjects included tales from "A Thousand and One Nights". The presentation was usually accompanied with a “talk show” that explained what was happening. For his installation Shahre Farang, Entekhabi rebuilt the traditional peep box in a contemporary version that comes along with no images inside but light and sound where a young boy´s voice is telling stories with a kind of autobiographical background about the artist´s memories of home.
Another object is the light box object Home that is a quotation from the film set of Stanley Kubrick´s masterpiece „A Clockwork Orange“ (1971). In the movie, the sign that is standing in front of the house of a writer appears two times: Once, before the protagonist Alex, a violent juvenile, and his gang entered the house of the writer to rape and murder his wife. A second time, after Alex submitted to a controversial experiment in prison to make criminals ill at the mildest suggestion of violence or conflict: After the experiment, Alex was attacked by the members of his former gang and could not defend himself as a result of the experiment. Heavily injured and desperate, he re-enters the house of the writer to ask for help without recognising it.
Entekhabi transfered the sign into the context of migration, of home as a hostile or friendly place.
A fourth important part of the exhibition is the work Islamic Catwalk. Entekhabi´s works in general often deal with question of seeing and being seen, with visions of one´s own self and visions of others. Within the work Islamic Catwalk as well as works like tents and sacks, he is referring to the specific female dress code for women in the artist´s home country: After the Islamic revolution, the requirement for religious Shiite women to wear the black chador turned into the only possible public manifestation of women in Iran. At the same time, a censorship of female imagery in books and magazines in the public libraries and universities within the country had also begun. As such pictures of uncovered female heads and parts of the body were either cut out from the printed matter or covered with paint in order to transfer them into the only valid aesthetics. After September 11, the chador became the metaphor for radical Islamism, and, in addition, the symbol for the question of releasing women in the Middle East from male oppression. In a body of work that he began in 2001, Entekhabi started - in an ironic and humorous fashion - the act of mimicing censorship within his home country to "islamize" the Western fashion world through veiling all the female bodies and faces shown in the German edition of the magazine "Vogue", on "H+M" fashion posters and on a set of " Playboy" play cards, etc. Two cultures collide in his work: On the one hand, the series remind us of the fact that many women are exposed to these obligations. Inevitably, at the same time, we think of the "black widows" that we know from the news. On the other hand, the pictures also scrutinize the often doubtful ideals of beauty within the Western world. Islamic Catwalk is based on a sequence of moving images from the Robert Altman master piece "Prêt-à-Porter" (1994), namely the end of the movie that shows some kind of high end fashion show, with all the female models being naked on stage. Entekhabi was taking all stills out of the sequence (i.e. 50 images per second/ video HD 1080i) and covered the naked female bodies with chadors. As a result, we see a video from an absurd Islamic version of a fashion show.
Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès
Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, holds a PhD from Leiden University (in Middle Eastern Studies, 2017), an MFA from from Yale University School of Art (in Graphic Design, 1990) and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design (in Graphic Design, 1987).