Art Forum

Critics' Picks

9 December 2015

It feels like a tomb. The dim lighting on Nazgol Ansarinia’s grayscale works lends this exhibition a crypt-like ambiance. Hanging on the left is the monumental Membrane, 2014, a more than sixteen-foot-tall paper impression of a two-story wall from a demolished house in Tehran. This is Ansarinia’s first piece utilizing 3-D scanning, and it features prominently in the Iranian artist’s first solo show in Dubai. Stand behind Membrane in awe and gaze at the arterial pattern of the paper, impressed with the artist’s fingerprints. “I wanted it to look like you’ve peeled the skin off of this building,” said Ansarinia, and the work does indeed resemble shriveling skin in a memento mori of what hastily perishes in Tehran’s recent rapid urbanism.

Then there is a cluster of five “Pillars,” 2014–15, made to resemble relics testifying to a glorious past in Iran where Persian and Romanesque architecture fused. Ansarinia cuts slices into her columns and inscribes their insides with texts from the Iranian constitution that discuss economy, wealth, and land ownership, among other topics. In doing so, she elegantly pokes fun at today’s Iranian nouveau riche, who celebrate their heritage in a contemporary and kitschy manner by building homes with pillars as exterior details in an attempt to enrich their surroundings. Facing this arrangement is a video, Living Room, 2005, that literally traces where couches and frames sat and hung in her family’s home. The dust permeates, as if a nostalgic haze, but is also a clever hint at Tehran’s notorious pollution while mourning for what once was.