Sirous Namazi, Carpet, 2014, printed Saxony carpet, 8 1/4“ × 7' 2 1/2” × 10' 6".

Sirous Namazi, Carpet, 2014, printed Saxony carpet, 8 1/4“ × 7' 2 1/2” × 10' 6".

Sirous Namazi

Sirous Namazi, Carpet, 2014, printed Saxony carpet, 8 1/4“ × 7' 2 1/2” × 10' 6".

On November 15, 1978, the family home of the artist Sirous Namazi, located in Shiraz, Iran, was looted and vandalized as part of a systematic persecution of adherents of the Baha’i faith. No one was home. When the family returned to assess the damage, a friend took four snapshots—the only remaining evidence of what the house looked like. The photos show it as a wreck, as if a tornado had torn it apart. Namazi was eight years old then. What followed was years of hiding in the volatile political climate of Khomeini’s Iran until, with the help of smugglers, he and his siblings got to Pakistan and later, as refugees, arrived in Lund, Sweden. Their parents followed three years later.

Such is the story behind Namazi’s exhibition “Twelve Thirty,” an exercise in memory, an attempt to reconstruct what was just outside the edges of the four now-faded images, which are presented in the accompanying catalogue. In a collective effort, Namazi, his siblings, and his parents have done their best to recall what the house and its contents looked like, and the artist has done his best to reconstruct them. Namazi crudely sketched the vague memories, processed them into advanced computer models, and painstakingly rendered them by hand into sculptures, seven of which (all 2014) were included in the exhibition. (The show also featured an older video from 1996.)

A door, the small staircase that once led up to it, and window blinds were displayed in the gallery’s first room. In the next was a mirror, a chandelier, and a turquoise sink with chrome-colored fixtures. In the final room lay a carpet. Though it might at first have seemed that the exhibition was an attempt to spatially reconstruct the house, there was much to suggest that this was not the case. There was no pretending that these were functional lamps or sinks or doors. Rather, each object was placed (or rather misplaced) in such a way as to quash any sense of function beyond just being sculpture. The chandelier, for instance, stands on a low pedestal and, although it lights up, it never seems to be a lamp but is, rather strictly, a remembered object. The same goes for the sink, which is freestanding and presented at a height that renders it nonfunctional.

A home is made up of banal stuff like sinks, utterly familiar things routinely interacted with but difficult to recall in detail. The reconstruction of a lost object can transform the substance of its memory. By presenting the sink as turquoise, Namazi can make us forget that it might not have been that color at all. But who knows? His brother wonders whether the sink wasn’t purple. The objects in this exhibition were thus steeped in uncertainty. They neither resolve the past nor reconcile with the present. Their purpose seems not to be reenactment; they are neither fictional nor real. History is not settled. They are things subject to fickle memory and poised by the artist to remain undetermined. Rather than exactness and historical accuracy, what they evoke is the impassioned need for their remembrance. Outside the edges of the images lay not only the objects themselves but also the reasons for a home being vandalized, an art of persecution whose effects linger continues to this day.

Theodor Ringborg