Taraneh Hemami’s Theory of Survival: Fabrications exhibit and pop-up bazaar at Southern Exposure in San Francisco is much more than a dynamic and interesting way to think about forgotten or ignored histories. Through a variety of artistic mediums, this exhibit/shop taps into individual and collective emotions, memories and tales that have come to flavor the experiences and lived realities of members of the Iranian diaspora, which stretches across the globe.
The title of the exhibit is wonderfully complex and in combination with the items on display, triggers a number of different ideas about what survives and what does not. It also poses the question of survival and transition, both personal and collective, which no doubt resonates heavily with the Iranian diaspora. It also relates to the work of other artists, like Nikola Kostic, who try to capture something about cultures that are somehow transitioning.
Drifting through the various elements of the exhibit/bazaar, ideas of culture and history correlate with feeling an absence of culture and history in the present. Many of the images and items may be familiar to members of the diaspora, yet most of them relate to histories that have been replayed and reimagined for those who are too young or physically too far removed from the events to ever know the true reality.
This creative experience sheds light on the politics that have impacted a vast number of individuals who are generally not political.
The interaction with the items pushes viewers to question what aspects of culture, history and politics are continued to be made real through the re-telling or displaying of these moments that have come to define how individuals or communities relate to the category of Iranian-ness.
This returns us to a shadowy realm of memory and desire for culture, for history, and for the tools with which to piece together an incomplete and un-experienced reality of what defines Iran.
With the help of twelve Iranian artists based in California, new perspectives, positions, and spaces are created for understanding what role each person plays in the survival of collective histories and these assist viewers to realize what aspect of this is fabricated and what is real.
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