The Spark is You, coinciding with this year’s Venice Biennale and curated by Ziba Ardalan, director of London’s Parasol Unit, groups nine Iranian contemporaries in a poignant, fitting exhibition for this palace of putti and frescoes, and white and gold stucco.
Motifs of memory and forgetting connect these senior artists with the best of Ardalan’s younger, Tehran-based generation. Nazgol Ansarinia, born in 1979, year of the Iranian revolution, takes as her subject the reconstruction of Tehran since then, with its development frenzy and accompanying nostalgia. Her spectral white “Membrane”, a fragile five-metre wall, handmade by pressing paper paste on moulds taken from 3D scans of the outer layer of an old building, now demolished, is a palimpsest of human traces and marks. The wall stands ghostly, its context vanished.
Ansarinia’s “Pillars” series are vast undecorated columns constructed from flimsy materials — paper, cardboard and glue — in a simulacrum of the bland concrete of Tehran’s recent buildings. Cross-sections reveal walls lined with script, built from the text of the Iranian constitution’s “Economy and Financial Affairs” section. The pillars’ interiors intimate Tehran’s specific history and geography, while the exteriors represent homogenising super-modernity.