Hich o Pooch / Nothing and void, 2021
“Bay leaves placed in a jewelry box, ‘hich o pooch’ meaning worthless. Even writing is worthless if kept in a jewel box.” — S. Bahrami
Shaer, Nevissandeh, Rooznamehnegar /Poet, writer, journalist, 2021
“Metal box covered with a red cloth and referring to confinement. Three tea bags, one inside and two next to it, illustrate detention and isolation.” — S. Bahrami
Honar va Honarmand / Art and artist, 2021
“Bay leaves in a mortar filled with coriander seeds. The censored artist feels crushed, which I have already felt with my works censored in Canada and France.” — S. Bahrami
In the hands of Shahla Bahrami, food and language are intimately fused. To create the striking photographs that make up her series Censorship and Autocensorship – I bite my tongue, Bahrami first writes fragments taken from her journal or Persian poems onto ingredients or dishes typical to Iranian cuisine. She then photographs these foods and their inked Farsi inscriptions against a black background. Bahrami views this series as an exploration of power, symbolically linking eating – typically considered a benign activity – with the fraught dynamics of control, violence, and suppression. She writes: “If speech takes the form of an opening, a gift, an extraction of oneself, eating is on the contrary the movement of a return to oneself, of a compression, of a disappearance into the flesh.” Through the juxtaposition of food and the written word, Bahrami deliberates on the roles of the individual and of the collective in consuming the culture of others, limiting self-expression, and, as her title starkly indicates, the censorship of language and artistic creativity.
Despite their deeply disquieting underpinnings, these seductive images are equally imbued with Bahrami’s evident delight in Iranian gastronomical and intellectual traditions. They function thus as an elegant homage to these time-honoured practices. The series also offers brief windows into Bahrami’s own identity – crystallizing her deep appreciation for Iranian cuisine and culture while hinting, in a more opaque way, at her specific experiences as a diasporic woman and artist. Marked by her handwritten notations, these images oscillate subtly, artfully, between the genres of still life and self-portraiture.
The artist thanks the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa and Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain gallery for their support.
Presented in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Canada Line Public Art Program – InTransit BC