Anahita Razmi's work of appropriation and transcultural recontextualization takes a novel trajectory in THE RIFF, the artist's 4th solo exhibition at CARBON 12. Through a conceptual use of somewhat offbeat media, the exhibition contrives a visual and sonic assemblage of recurrent symbols of (post-)nationalisms, fading empires, and past cosmopolitanisms, and draws attention to essential questions around living in the world together as people, not necessarily as citizens of national states.
Analogue photography, black-and-white aesthetics, and a focus on sound have a strong voice throughout the exhibition. The works concretize abstract notions of processes that participate in coordinating vectors of power, as evident in the series of large-size photographs WORLD MUSIC (2022) taken on a special analogue 6x6 medium format film used by motion picture professionals for sound recording. These photographs act as imagined visual representations of sounds of ungraspable yet impactful processes: The Sound Of Nationalism Going Viral, The Sound Of A Biased Algorithm, The Sound Of A Floating Exchange Rate...
Taking up the challenge to move from the abstract to the concrete, the artworks presented in this selection are daring when they confront the viewer with political, mildly absurd, playful proposals, such as NO NATIONAL FLAG USES A GRADIENT (2022) – a series of textile design proposals for a flag using a color gradient, breaking the logic of clear boundaries and standardization of symbols of national representation.
Humor, fiction, mockery of political gestures through deconstructing abstractions to their rudimentary form are frequent strategies in Razmi ́s artistic practice. THE RIFF, therefore, invites us to closely observe notorious terms such as internationalism and cosmopolitanism that frequent political discourses and pushes to search for a new sense of meaning around notions that oftentimes seem to have been semantically emptied by populist politicians and mainstream media. Taking the Non-Aligned Movement literally, the single channel black-and-white video I WANNA BE PART OF THE NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT (2022) shows the artist performing a challenge of perfectly non-aligned movements of the left and right sides of her body to the sound of a speech Rajiv Gandhi delivered at the 8th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1986 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Vice versa, in THE EMPIRE (2022), a series of three vinyl records, terms and images that pretend to mean a lot in constituting national identities are exposed and deprived of their assumed nationalizing agency. In Razmi ́s playful experimentation with national anthems vocabulary and artificially generated guitar riffs, symbols that supposedly represent different nations are staged in ways that inevitably connect rather than distinguish different nationalities. In such imaginaries, appropriated language originally meant to encourage a geographically located national pride happens to transform into universal code that could be applied anywhere. The idea of a nation state dissolves and somehow loses its relevance. Perhaps the riffs that repeat endlessly as a rhythmic figure, a pattern, a hook do something to the listener ́s body and resemble the mechanics of populist political strategies. They are memorable, appealing and simple. They are comforting, easy to understand and remember. They are mutating through repetition. They are viral.
-- Jaroslava Tomanova