See Something Say Something
April 16th - May 30th, 2015
Ethan Cohen New York is pleased to present TAHA HEYDARI: See Something Say Something featuring Iranian artist Taha Heydari. The exhibition will run from April 16th to May 30th , 2015.
Taha Heydari’s works deconstruct the process by which media images, most associated with the Middle East, seduce the unwary into joining violent groups. The particular fluency of Middle East radicalism in the use of such methods has made the phenomenon a universal concern and Heydari explores the esthetic terrain of their propaganda. Heydari was trained in the art of miniature painting in Iran. He brings his highly-sensitized eye to the glossy post-modern palette of images generated by electronic screens, today’s equivalent of recruitment posters. He harvests into collages the kind of morally toxic, deceptively banal, visual junk that feeds the region’s wars with subliminal messages. Always ambivalent, suggestive, mysterious, his works invite the viewer to decipher, to look again and see the shiny visual poison at work, the slippery image-seduction of propaganda. In short, he asks us to be conscious of the process.
Heydari lived through street demonstrations in recent years and witnessed how those in power manipulated broadcasting to distort truth, often literally distorting the screen to censor news. In the Mideast of today, media images are just as encoded, as opaque and as eloquent, as intentional, as those in the miniatures Heydari studied. But the frame is now the television and youtube screen and the ideologically charged images are far more ubiquitously deployed so that they become a kind of blurry background texture to daily life, a shifting wallpaper of the mind. Anyone affected by a warzone has seen such scenes invoked so often that they’ve become the clichéd abstractions Heydari presents in his art - the executions, the beheadings, the veiled killers. But it goes further: Violent computer games and drone war have entered the global consciousness. They too offer painless killing through mediated screens. The result is a reality that escapes us, that happens to others, even when it happens to us. Heydari builds into his work the process of decoding, the consciousness of looking, the struggle to freeze images long enough to decipher them, and their glittering riverine fluidity as they resist your attempts.
In GTA (Grand Theft Auto) he offers the distortion-buzzed world of a computer game as a potential lure to the depersonalized killings of war. This is how easy it is. Everything anonymous. Feels like a game, he seems to be saying, not least because it all begins with images and ultimately the reality ends up feeling unreal. In “Mountains” we see faceless, bearded rows of menacingly veiled men, recruits, volunteers, lured by the silhouette of the idealized female form, the martyr’s promised houriin paradise or the sexual slave captured in battle. In “See Something Say Something” we make out a dark executioner’s form, a shiny knife, and a laughing boy’s head: a beheading, perhaps, but one that a brainwashed boy can only laugh at, even if it happens to him. The content of “On Stage” is even more explicit featuring a blindfolded execution by an impersonally hooded gunman supported by his kind. On a screen up above, a beautiful female face on a billboard-like screen looks on – complicit, sad, approving? Impossible to tell. The women suffer in passivity. They serve. Haydari’s images dance along the precipice of such issues, always suggesting, flirting, referencing the matrices of longing and lies that seduce and confuse the mind in today’s Mideast.
Taha Heydari was born in 1986 in Tehran, Iran. He is currently working in the United States.
Thursday, April 16th, 6-8pm
Ethan Cohen New York
251 W. 19th St.
New York, NY 10011