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On November 13, 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned there are about twelve million stateless people in the world. This exhibition features two bodies of work by Iranian artist Gohar Dashti that explore notions of home and sanctuary, which are inverted and reframed. The photographs from her series Stateless situate human occupants and observers in wild, visually hostile 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. Mirroring these images is her Home series, wherein plants have overtaken domestic spaces. Staged in mostly-dilapidated interiors stripped of fixtures and furnishings, the vegetation invades and proliferates. Does this greenery evince new beginnings and life’s endurance, or is it a marker of cataclysm and absence?
Taken together, the two series of photographs 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. The walls and ceiling may crumble without warning, or home must be abandoned at a moment’s notice; and yet, life must go on.
Dashti was born in the city of Ahvaz, Iran near the border of Iraq in 1980. Her work is informed by childhood memories of the eight-year war between Iran and its neighbour—the legacy that this conflict left on her hometown is integral to her practice.