narrative projects is pleased to present The Unity of Time and Place by Iranian artist Mahmoud Bakhshi. The artist’s second show at the gallery sees the space transformed into an immersive installation centred on the infamous Cinema Rex fire in Abadan, in southern Iran. The cinema was set ablaze killing over 400 people on 19 August 1978, and is considered to have triggered the revolution of 1979.
The interior of the cinema is replicated at the gallery with vintage furniture and carpet adorning the floors and walls, displaying emotive films that inspire a connection with the time and place of the event. Drawing inspiration from the political and social issues surrounding him, Bakhshi invites the viewer to reflect and consider this pivotal moment in history. The artist uses the historical events and archival footage to construct a story, with no claim of conducting an investigative enquiry. Without connoting a viewpoint, the artist highlights details that have escaped the public’s attention to date.
The project feeds into the wider focus of artistic inquiry in Bakhshi’s practice: both the role and impact of an artist today, as well as the effect and reflective nature of an influential work of art on society. In this light, the Cinema Rex fire is particularly poignant. The building was set on fire during the screening of an iconic movie The Deers (Gavaznha in Persian) by Masoud Kimiai, which highlighted a deep social divide in the Shah’s Iran and called for the direct violent action against the authorities. To this date, The Deersremains one of the most important films of Iranian cinema. During the project, Bakhshi interviewed Kimiai on the subject, the outcome of which is a film displayed at the gallery alongside other found material relating to the events.
The Unity of Time and Place also refers to the coup d’état, which happened on the same day as the fire on 19 August, 17 years earlier, in 1953. Both events had a crucial impact on the history and transformation of not only Iran but the entire region, drawing parallels on both their date of occurrence and location. Abadan, an oil-producing city in the south of Iran, was an epicentre of the coup d’état and is also where Cinema Rex was located.
Mahmoud Bakhshi (b. 1977, Tehran) studied BA Sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran. His previous exhibitions include: Endless Celebration, temporary intervention at the former site of the Lenin monument (solo exhibition), Kiev (2016); The Great Game, National Pavilion of Iran at 56th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures curated by Okwui Enwezor, Venice (2015); Recalling The Future: post-revolutionary Iranian art, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London, London, (2014); Love Me, Love Me Not, Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan and its Neighbours, The 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); DISASTER, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris Pantin, Paris (2013); Transformed Visions, Tate Modern, London (2012) and The Engaged Artist: Influences of Graphics on Sculpture in the Middle Ages, Saatchi Gallery (solo exhibition), London (2010). He also received the MOPCAP award, was a resident artist at the Delfina Foundation, London, and is a Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, alumnus. His studio and artist book publishing project, BON-GAH (established in 2004), is located in a warehouse style space just outside of Tehran. Bakhshi’s upcoming exhibitions include: Mohammed Afkhami Collection – Rebel, Jester, Poet, Mystic: Contemporary Persiansat the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, accompanied by a book to be published by Phaidon, London, in February 2017. His works are represented in collections worldwide including: Tate Modern, London; Doron Sebbag Art Collection, Tel Aviv; Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi; Videoinsight® Collection, Turin; Thaddaeus Ropac Collection, Paris; Mohammed Afkhami Collection, Dubai; Marlene Meyerson Collection, Santa Fe; Nader and Mana Mobargha Collection, Vancouver and Pejman Collection, Tehran.
Mahmoud Bakhshi, Recycle, 2012, mixed media, 72 x 70 x 15 cm, 2011, © Mahmoud Bakhshi, courtesy of the artist and narrative projects, London
narrative projects is a contemporary art gallery in London’s Fitzrovia, founded by art historian and art theorist Daria Kirsanova. It presents an international, cross-disciplinary programme with a particular focus on conceptual work. The space’s primary objective is to open up a creative dialogue highlighting the wider cultural milieu within which its selected artists are working. In order to facilitate this exchange, the gallery is developing a series of off-site projects in collaboration with artists, art historians and curators, both in London and internationally.