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Listen to the audio recording of the Dissonance exhibition by guest curator Pantea Haghighi
To view more images of the exhibit visit westvancouverartmuseum.ca
This exhibition, the artist’s first in Canada, features photographs by Gohar Dashti that explore notions of home and sanctuary, which are inverted and reframed. Taken together, these works subvert the distinction between indoor and outdoor environments. Dashti’s transposition of home and wilderness into unexpected and uncertain places evokes the fragility of daily norms during wartime and migration. The walls and ceiling may crumble without warning or home must be abandoned at a moment’s notice; and, yet, life goes on.
The photographs from her series, Stateless (2014–2015), situate human occupants and observers in wild, uninhabited landscapes. Arid deserts, rugged mountain paths and craggy crevasses become makeshift kitchens and living rooms for their dispossessed inhabitants. There is both hope and implicit fruitlessness in the efforts of Dashti’s subjects, who vacillate between determination and despair. The landscape in Stateless features a natural environment that is largely unknown to Iranian or international audiences. The landscape, sculpted by erosion, could have been anywhere, but it is the Qeshm Island in the Persian Gulf, which was, in ancient times submerged underwater.
Works in Today’s Life and War series (2008) represent war and its reverberations: the ways in which it permeates all aspects of contemporary society. Dashti captures moments that reference the ongoing duality of life and war without precluding hope. To find the figures depicted in Today’s Life and War and Stateless, Dashti invited people to her studio to first take their portraits. She was looking for subjects with neutral expressions. In the end, she chose friends, who are siblings and not actors. The photos for Today’s Life and War were taken in a film set near Tehran.
In her Home series (2017), plants have overtaken domestic spaces. Staged in mostly dilapidated interiors, stripped of fixtures and furnishings, the vegetation invades and proliferates. Most of the Home series was taken in the city of Mashhad, inside abandoned buildings. Dashti carefully matched the featured homes with the vegetation that occupies them. The scenes of assembled natural materials—plants, soil, flowers—reflect the resilience of nature and, ultimately, the meaning and loss of home. “The Home series is a project about the people,” Dashti once explained. “Maybe you cannot see the people, but it’s about the people.”
Her most recent series, Uprooted (2019), features stark portraits of individual plants, removed from the earth and yet still vibrant. Does this greenery evince new beginnings and life’s endurance, or is it a marker of cataclysm and absence? These plants grow on their own in the desert and are extremely tough. Dashti was inspired by the plant studies that she saw at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The roots are not typically visible and here, they come to light. They are uprooted—no one knows where they are from. Where do they belong?
Gohar Dashti uses a digital camera, using daylight.