Fariba Hajamadi

Galerie Laage-Salomon

In this exhibition, Fariba Hajamadi worked with the conjuncture of violence and eroticism, perfecting her mode of hybrid composition—montages in which she juxtaposes different photographs taken of museum spaces. But for the first time, Hajamadi’s intervention was extended to include the gallery space. She covered each wall with wallpaper whose lively colored, repetitive patterns (like toile de Jouy) contrasted with the enigma of the sepia-toned photographs transferred onto wood. Thus, each wall held imagery that is both decorative and obsessive: scenes of executions and rape, in a series taken from Goya’s “Disasters”; coded eroticism from 19th-century Indian miniatures; the serial paganism of an 18th-century hunting scene.

At first glance, this superimposition of the photos onto wallpaper arises from a spatial extension of the artist’s distinctive method, one that plays on the effects of entangled visual layers. Photography and painting, toppling into one another, thus form an increasingly invasive environment, which leads the viewer/voyeur into a claustrophobic trap.

The use of wallpaper (what remains of the history of art, in the private and intimate space of the chamber or salon—reestablishing that link) is, most importantly, however, an index of the affinitative logic that runs throughout Hajamadi’s work. Each image implements a redistribution of fixed, dispersed, and fragmented elements from museum history, and a new, related syntax. The static discontinuity of the museum vitrines (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and their pseudo-objectivity, make way for the emergence of meanings that create new relationships among the vectors of memory.

A diptych of old dresses with “pagan” patterns created a population of phantom women. Another diptych—a corset placed in front of a wall of insects, facing a room with a canopy bed—tracks the signs of a subjected sexuality, which continued on the wall in the form of rape motifs. A more “naturalistic” triptych—a photograph of a tree (in negative) framed by two stuffed reptiles wound around a branch—found a visual analogy in the doleful verticality of the Goya execution scenes (hangings, and men gunned down, tied to execution posts. . . ). The face of the artist, or her profile, sometimes falls into the trap of these affinitative interlacings.

From all available evidence, this exhibition articulates a feminine sensibility that runs counter to the museographical codes (violence and the authority of modes of representation), though it is impossible to speak of a feminist rereading. The questions Hajamadi raises are tied into the possibility of another space of identity and of similitude among the apparently heterogeneous signs of history’s bric-a-brac. It is a question of the emergence of a common thread among memory signals that seem foreign to one another. More than a critical discursivity, Hajamadi produces a sweet and enveloping “heterotopia,” that is, a space of language in which heteroclite (indeed violently dissimilar) elements of nature begin to make meaning together. This is to produce a new history, or more precisely, a new (feminine?) modality of memory. A history without identity, a history without representation, but a history woven of affinities.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.