“Durational, monumental, and archival in nature” – From Slander’s Brand explores history, transformation and trauma

From now until Feb. 4, 2023, the Polygon Gallery will host a three-person exhibition titled Slander’s Brand, showcasing the works of artists Rachel Khedoori, Ron Terada and Hannah Darabi who engage with trauma and history in their artistic medium and whose work focuses on themes of duration and archive.

Khedoori’s work assembles historical news articles featuring the words ‘Iraq’ and ‘Baghdad’ and arranges them in a continuing fashion for her work, while Terada’s work entails a collection of numerous paintings reflecting on the crucial moments during the COVID-19 pandemic, like the police killing of George Floyd to the electoral victory of Joe Biden, into historical paintings.

Meanwhile, Darabi’s piece, Enghelab Street, a Revolution Through Books, Iran, 1979–1983, aims to create in-depth conversations about Iran’s Islamic revolution among the public by assembling archival materials which include documentary photographs and cultural magazines.

“I can talk about my lived experiences; we have witnessed the consequences of both pre-and post-revolutions,” says Darabi. “I thrive and gather materials – text, photographs and music records – from various sources, assemble them and exhibit them for the public to decide, relate to and interpret.”

The history and process

While Darabi is currently using photographs for her art, earlier in life she was more inclined towards seeing photographs as simple propaganda.

From Hannah Darabi’s Enghelab Street, A Revolution through Books, Iran, 1979–1983.

“I grew up seeing photographs of political leaders across the streets and conceived the ideology that photographs acted as a propaganda machine,” says Darabi.

As years have gone by, however, she has come to see the process and significance of photography. As such, Darabi became an artist that has seen the potential that art can hold, believing that art can resonate with reality. But she remains wary of how that power can sometimes be dangerous.

“I am concerned about the medium and aware my work is subjective, and my job as an artist is not to reveal truths,” says Darabi. “I am aware I am not a sociologist or an anthropologist.”

Darabi’s piece for this exhibit came to life while she was visiting thrift bookstores in Tehran, inspired by a photography book by Iranian photographer Shahrokh Hatami.

Darabi wanted the timeline in her exhibit to hold significance. Therefore, Darabi chose the years of 1977, “the year the Islamic revolution emerged victorious,” and 1983, “the year of the inauguration of Islamic office and censorship was institutionalized.” These two years are the temporal bounds for her work, creating a narrative of events through images that took place during that time.

“Since I wanted to build a narrative of my generation, I rephotographed certain pages. I arranged in a way, thereby creating conversations and linkages between archival materials and the works I reshot in a contemporary style,” says Darabi.

Two kinds of public

As an Iranian artist based in Paris, Darabi says that it is complicated to talk about Iranian history as it holds multiple points of view. Because of this, however, she’s interested to see the different reactions between the two kinds of public she has in mind for this piece: Iranian and Western.

She says the Iranian audience possesses preconceived thoughts and ideologies as they are well-informed about Iran and its history, while the Western public brings in their “own cultural upbringings and interpretations.” She is astonished, and sometimes perplexed, at how the Western audience observes unique details that the Iranian audience fails to notice.

“Interacting with Western audiences allows me to get exposed to their cultures. This experience enriches my artistic practice and presents me with the necessity of revisiting my culture,” says Darabi.

But perhaps due to all the complications that come with how art can be interpreted, Darabi believes honesty, a deep sense of self-realization that artworks can be fictional or non-fictional, and being concerned about how artists treat their subjects are the core responsibilities of an artist.

“I kept asking myself, how do you want to express yourself as an adult? Art was the answer,” says Darabi. “Art is the best thing I can do with myself and for myself.”

For more information, please see www.thepolygon.ca/exhibition/from-slanders-brand