It’s the last week of the exhibition ‘Performing the Border’ at the Kunstraum Niederösterreich, where you can find a famous installation/shop DO FARD — Iranian underwear sold by artist Anahita Razmi, who will be represented at the viennacontemporary 2017 by Dubai based gallery Carbon 12. I met her at the gallery to find out more about the project.
What is the story behind this project?
I went to the shop first to buy underwear for myself, and later one every time I went to Teheran I would go to the shop to get new stuff. That’s how the idea came about. The concept started a while ago, but I thought it would be perfect timing for opening the shop when the nuclear deal with Iran would go through. Obviously you couldn’t really plan that. We were really lucky – the shop in Berlin opened two days after the signing of that deal. Everyone was talking about trade with Iran – is it possible, isn’t it possible? That discussion is still going on now, and that also was an important question for me in this project. Why can’t I get money with my bank card in Iran? Why can’t I pay anyone in Iran, when will that be possible?
Did you always intend it as an art project?
I like that this is very unclear… For me, it’s definitely an art project – also, as it doesn’t make much sense economically. The import of the stuff is very costly. There are no set structures I could use. I have to make a huge effort to realize it. So there must be other reasons for doing it – to rethink how I can make a project that doesn’t only speak to the art world, but also involves other people. And opening a shop is a great way. People don’t hesitate to go in and talk about the stuff you’re selling, they’re not shy – with art, that often happens.
How can the art world break this boundary? Everyone is talking about this issue, but [on the other hand] no one in the art world seems to care about it that much.
Generally that’s a difficult topic. But with this project, I was trying to overcome this border and make it accessible. The product is not expensive – everyone can buy it. But still it is an art piece you’re buying in a way, the whole thing is a shop but also an installation.
Is it possible to buy the underwear online?
During the times the shop is open, yes. But not in between, otherwise it would be a full-time job for me. Also I like that it’s a limited edition for a limited time, so you have to be fast.
Let’s talk about Vienna. You told me that you haven’t been here in four years. Has it changed?
I haven’t seen so much on this visit. For me, it has this a bit more laid-back, friendly atmosphere. I had a Viennese boyfriend some years ago, then I was here more often. It always has been one of my favorite cities, also because of the art scene. Vienna feels more relaxed than Berlin.
Talking about the exhibition as a whole – the topic of borders is very hot right now, but it’s still separated from the ‘real’ world. Do you think in the art world this crisis is reviewed differently?
Even when saying the word ‘border’ – it can be this concrete thing, like a fence or a wall, or it can become a metaphorical thing. For me, it would be problematic to take it as a metaphor and make artworks only based on the symbolic aspects. Whit my project, I’m trying to be directly involved. I’m traveling with boxes of underwear across the border – it can not get more physical than that. Also when thinking about trade borders – it’s one of the main themes of this shop.
So you understand what’s happening – you’re not just watching and importing but you actually tell about your experience. This is what I found fascinating about your work – every project you do seems impossible, but then it somehow happens. Are impossible projects your challenge?
A bit, yeah (laughs). To me, it’s interesting to see at what point something becomes impossible, and what are the structures that make it impossible? That’s why I’m present in the shop – it’s also a discussion space for all of that. You can simply buy underwear, but mostly people come to also talk about the circumstances of their shopping.
How often do you go to Teheran?
Like once or twice a year. I have friends and relatives living there, and I try to keep up with what’s going on.
Is there a young art scene?
At the moment, there are a lot of things happening.
At the moment, there are a lot of things happening. I feel it’s a better time now than five years ago, before the current president. People feel that. You can’t really name it, no big changes, but little ones – there’s a slight optimism. Also in the art world – several spaces opened, even some non-commercial places, which hardly existed before. There was this crisis and depressive mood for a long time before, which I feel always kills an art scene. That’s changing a bit now, and I hope it will change more. If you have the chance, you should definitely go. Now for the first time in years, I see tourists in Iran – just because the media coverage is better. It’s weird, as it’s still the same country and one cannot deny that many depressing things are still going on. I feel its more important than ever to refuse ignoring them.
If you would like to read more in depth about Anahita’s work – check out this interview by Joobin Bekhrad for Reorient Mag
The exhibition Performing the Border presents artistic works which are not satisfied with the obvious and evident and choose to focus their attention beyond to the outside. In a present time, where large parts of the globe are marked by racism, isolation, restricted freedom of the press, and “post-factual” debates, the artists plot scenarios in which the dubious categories of the “own” and the “foreign” can become tangible for the viewer. They conceive the complex field of national, ethnic, social, digital, and sexual identity as a realm for experiment.
They discuss the border as an image-based zone of “events”, which has been corrupted into a questionable iconography of diverse stakeholders in our mass medial present. Or they document and reflect upon territorial borderlines as a site of global migration by triggering a discussion on the fragile concept of national in- and exclusion. Other works, in turn, reveal the absurdity of the border crossing, which manifests and is physically experienced as a solidified line running through the landscape. The concept of a border becomes a metaphor, a construct, which is not static rather the subject of agreements and negotiations.
With: Monira Al Qadiri, Halil Altindere, Francis Alÿs, Ursula Biemann, Tiffany Chung, Julien Creuzet, Khaled Jarrar, Leon Kahane, Martin Krenn/Oliver Ressler, Eva Leitolf, Hana Miletić, Anahita Razmi, Christoph Schlingensief, Hito Steyerl, Wermke/Leinkauf, Clara Wildberger, Miao Ying
Save the Date
21 – 24 September 2017
Marx Halle Vienna