Adventure of a Middle Eastern Migrant Stranded in the West

By Asieh Salimian

Read also: Revisiting History by Mieke Bal

In his 4:17 minute film "I?" from 2004, Shahram Entekhabi develops a contemporary reference to Samuel Beckett's only film "Film" (1965) with Buster Keaton in the lead role. In the typical and already historical approach of early cinema, which managed without dialogues, showed intense body movements and depicted the shock experience in encountering the city as a symbol of modernity, Keaton jumps and hops around New York City 40 years after his greatest successes, never showing his face to a passerby or the audience. In the final shot, and as a possible ironic concession to the viewer hungry for realistic solutions, it becomes visible that his face is terribly disfigured.

The basic element of Beckett's concept is the unequal combination of walking around in urban space with the hiding of the face. Entekhabi takes the conceptual dimension of "Film," but does not include such a soothing ending - soothing because it projects the rejection of eye contact onto the figure that hides. Entekhabi's solitary figure is never seen because his surroundings are not interested in seeing him. Today it is crucial to reflect on the relationship between the individual whose life demands the conditions we respect and the larger communities for whose members the Western world denies this individuality. In its intertextual relationship with "Film," "I?" does not focus on individual facial features, precisely because true eye contact does not arise. The mechanisms of conceptual exploration that reject heroic individualism with its equation of Hollywood stardom and elitist criteria of artistic genius offer a possibility to explore identity without sentimentalizing this concept, while protecting it from the abuse of identity politics and their reactions. In 10 very short sequences, "I?" positions the migrant in various urban situations that refer to his daily life, from morning shaving at home to the market, coffeehouse, and back to the house where he lives. A full day, a full life, yet no eye contact. "I?" became the starting point for a series of short films in which the description of historical continuity and geographically failed encounters is further thematized. In these films, the migrant's daily life is further stylized and reduced to individual actions: traveling, job searching, intervening in public space, offering cake on his birthday, and fleeing from suspicious city dwellers who finally notice him and think he has no good intentions.


"I?" consists of ten episodes that tell a day in the life of the protagonist "O," played by Shahram Entekhabi. In the film, the perspectives of the protagonist and the camera constantly alternate to address the problem field of self-perception and perception by others, "I" and "the Other." However, except for the final scene, "O's" (and his later appearing "twin's") face is never shown. In a closed cycle, the film begins and ends in the protagonist's apartment, with each action revolving around O's reflection in a mirror.

After waking up from sleep due to the apparent presence of a stranger in his apartment, "O" gets up. In the following scene, the camera witnesses "O's" delusions of constantly being watched, sometimes even by lifeless objects like photographs, while he compulsively tries to avoid self-perception by hanging a mirror. After leaving the apartment, delusions increase and it becomes apparent that a second protagonist, "F," played again by Shahram Entekhabi, is actually observing "O" without "O" being aware of it. Rather, he feels all the time that he is being watched without actually seeing anyone until he finally becomes aware of the second protagonist and begins to pursue him. An increasingly dramatic chase ensues that ultimately leads E and his pursuer "O" back to O's apartment. However, O finds no one in the apartment. The film ends as "O" sees himself in the mirror.

Asieh Salimian Asieh Salimian was born in Isfahan, Iran in 1988. She studied Communication Design. Her curatorial interests revolve around transnational issues and questions of hegemony in the art field.
Salimian initiated Factory TT with Shahram Entekhabi in 2015 as an interdisciplinary network of researchers and artists. Asieh Salimian

The video "I?" is part of the permanent collection in the video forum of the Video Forum of the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) video forum of the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.)

The video "I?" appeared at the following exhibitions and festivals, among others:
2013: You Are What You See — Raf Art Gallery, Tehran, Iran (solo show)
2015: "I?" — Visual Cultures (Lecture), Goldsmiths University of London, United Kingdom
2009': Das Bild des Fremden in Deutschland und Frankreich’ — Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM), Berlin, Germany
2009': bedün´ ? onvän´ 3 — Short video pieces reflecting on social & gender issues in Iran — Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, UK
2009': Video art selection — Video Art program, curated by Sabine Schütze, Preview Berlin The Emerging Art Fair , Berlin, Germany
2009': The Third Guangzhou Triennial — Guangdong Museum of Art, China
2008: PROYECTO MONOLOGS — Laboratorio Global de Monologos y Video — curator Elisa Eliash, Rome, Italy
2008: IDEAL.LOOP — Espace Croisé, Roubaix Cedex 1, France
2008: LOOP’08 Festival “SELECTED #3, A source for videoart lovers” — The sixth videoart festival LOOP’08, Barcelona, Spain (catalogue)
2007: Kunstfilmtag — Kuenstlerverein Malkasten, Duesseldorf, Germany (catalogue)
2007: 100 Tage = 100 Videos, GL Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark (catalogue)
2007: TRUNK07, THE NORDIC ART VIDEO FESTIVAL — CinemaRegina, Östersund, Sweden
2007: LED-Wall, Zeithaus, VW Autostadt, Wolfsburg, Germany
2007: Optica, International Festival of Video Art — GIjón-Asturias, Spai
2006: Labyrinth X - zu Rassismus und Ausgrenzung — Nikolaikirche, Rostock, Germany
2006: Beckett & Company, panel discussion and artist talk — Tate Modern, London, UK
2005: Exhibition of the 10 winning videos of the festival FIAV.05 — Metrònom, Barcelona
2004: "I?" — PLAY Gallery for Still and Motion Pictures, Berlin (solo show)