Gohar Dashti: Dissonance
West Vancouver Art Museum, West Vancouver, BC
WEST VANCOUVER ART MUSEUM, West Vancouver BC - March 18 - May 9
by Michael Turner
Nineteen-eighty was an extraordinary year for Iran. On September 22 the country was invaded by neighbouring Iraq; less than 18 months earlier, it had undergone a revolutionary transition from a 1,275-year-old authoritarian constitutional monarchy to a theocratic Islamic republic. Between revolution and war came Tehran-based Irani artist Gohar Dashti, who was born and raised near the Iran-Iraq border, in Ahvaz. While many Ahvazis fled the city for safe haven, Dashti’s family chose to stay, enduring a terrifying and violent eight-year conflict.
Dissonance comprises two bodies of photo-based work. In Dashti’s Stateless series, dispossessed occupants and observers negotiate inhospitable landscapes, where they build kitchens and living rooms amid a topography of arid deserts, treacherous mountain paths and toothy crevices. Yet despite these brutal conditions, her subjects – balanced between determination and despair – evince faint rays of hope. Dashti’s Home series provides an inverted, if not allegorical, function. Here, plant life overtakes domestic space, as in Home #4 (2017), where a wheat field thrives inside an ornately detailed living room.
The pairing of Stateless and Home provides ample evidence of an artist for whom binaries like inside/outside, wild/domestic and belief/doubt are born not from religious or philosophical musings, but from the realities of a complicated internecine war. Equally complicated is Iran’s recent situation, where public outcry over the assassination of the country’s leading general was followed by the downing of a commercial airliner, sparking yet another outcry – this time in the opposite direction.