Schipbreukeling – Mathieu Charles
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Farkhondeh Shahroudi

Performative Poetics of Matter

Since Farkhondeh Shahroudi left Iran for Germany in the 1990s, poetry has been her most important resource in a practice that involves role play and correspondence between the artist and an imaginary or real person. In Performative Poetics of Matter, unreadableness and formal abstraction collaborate across surface, through a body, into space and back again. This performative ‘sculpture’ makes use of the artist’s ‘anti-flags’ that here include stitched Farsi, German and English poetry and are meant to neither territorialise nor stereotype ways of belonging. In this work through poetry and telling stories about and with Anna – an unknown carpet knotter shipped from a Dutch colony to Arnhem and who lived in the Zypendaal Castle as a housemaid – the figure of the artist and Anna flow into each other.

Entrances to the sculpture allow the spectator to become part of the organic meeting point where layered stories spread out in all directions, knotted together with fingers into one body with a three dimensional voice. The viewer is invited to go through the poetry to be in its middle and experience the loss of words in an interaction of body and text within the park. The work reflects on the geographical movement of people and images, shipped, displaced, between places and worlds synthesising image, body and narration into a body of storytelling – between social and antisocial, political and intimate, and moving from inside to outside, language to speechlessness. The speechlessness of the artist’s characters becomes matter and unreadability a language that draws up memories of the unspoken. That stuttering language is a lost and amorphous one: words on the surface of textile, sewn in flesh or on fabrics. The artist often uses Farsi and German to perform ritual recitations while their materials – hand-sewn interwoven textiles, artificial hair, leather – are chosen for their aesthetics and capacity to generate moods between touching and viewing, often with a performative element akin to the artist’s body or those in the space. In this theatre of memories text and textile are synonymous and figures are broken and reassembled poetry that flows like the artist’s own memories of migration, separation, reincarnated in the narratives of re/creation and re/assembly of the archive re/processed and in the sewn figures’ growing limbs.

Ambulance Virtual Leg

The wheelchair, crutch, the leg – they jumped out of my memory archive.

They are narrative Gestalt, a reflection of the fragility of the environment.

Images change themselves into the Mobil vehicle.

They are seemingly inanimate, disturbed, but they are spirited in constant motion, they break up. They are autonomous between zone and zone, between in movement.

Legs that might evoke feeling careful and shy, haptics like wanting to touch the leg.

The wheelchair doesn’t beep like a BMW but drives very well.

Will their owners transport the virtual legs by ambulance, which is not covered by health insurance but helps the owner to be mobile without phantom pain.

When looking at it close up, you clearly see stitches on the textile. The stitches can be the aleph or the letter I, it is a string, like every tread in my new works. Every stitch has an alphabetic text character.

On the ambulance see the signs, reading the alphabet as an aleph or I, from bottom to top from top to bottom from right to left from left to right and all as one sign.

Please move around ambulance, how mystical you move around legs, it’s corporeal, experience is knowledge.

Farkhondeh Shahroudi (1962, Tehran) lives and works in Berlin. The artist is inspired by poetry that she deliberately slows down using her left hand in work on paper and hand- stitching Persian letters made illegible due to overlapping signs. She does not distinguish text’s bi- dimensionality from sculpture’s tri-dimensionality in seemingly anthropomorphic creatures in which anatomical anomalies – impairment, proliferating limbs, doubling – are positioned next to animal and plant figures. The stitches hold inside, show loss and scars, and evoke a primordial alphabet in her sculptures as three-dimensional exclamations that allude to the wonder in poetry (and sculpture) that reveals the creative process and overturning of established symbolism. Her sculptures of the body made from hand-sewn fabric are housed in several museums including the collection of the British Museum, London, Vehbi Koç Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul and Written Art Foundation, Frankfurt. In 2011, a German radio transmission from Deutschlandfunk dedicated a radio drama to her. She received the 2017 Villa Romana Prize. Her personal and collective exhibitions and performance include: HKW, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, British Museum, London, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Kunsthalle Giessen, Germany, SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Kunsthalle Lottozero, Prato, Italy, Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Berlin, Kunstraum München, Germany.

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