Nairy Baghramian (born in Isfahan, 1971, based in Berlin) works with sculpture, photography and installation to assemble scenarios that interrogate and reinterpret the dogmas of desire. Exposing codified historical, political and aesthetic agendas, Baghramian uses rich and varied points of references that often emerge in response to specific contexts. Key to her practice is the reconfiguration and insertion of multiple subjectivities into the visual field, where the artist renders complex arguments in lyrical and seductive forms and questions the neutrality of the viewing mode.
In a recent project, Entre deux actes: Loge de comedienne, 2009, the artist worked in collaboration with Swiss designer Janette Laverrière. Together, they transformed Laverrière s 1947 architectural display of the same name into an installation within the institutional setting of Kunsthalle Baden Baden, producing a sculptural mise en scène that provocatively prised open issues of domesticity, utility and gender. The installation excavated the latent politics in Laverrière s previous work and activated a dense and witty dialogue between the pair s respective practices. Baghramians recent exhibition at Studio Voltaire, London, Butcher, Barber, Angler & others, 2009, also interrogates the connection between politics and design. Casting the gallery as the stage of sculptural tableau, Baghramian s space was scattered with objects that appeared as corporeal forms—surrogates for presence—and which investigated the performative roles of labour and value.
For this MAP Commission, Baghramian presents a sequence of images that plays with the magazines form and content. In its most basic function the magazine, with its emphasis on visual content, is a quotidian display structure for photography: a proliferation of imagery variously spanning fashion, documentary, advertising, and art. The fugitive sequence also evokes cinematic tropes, from Geena Rowlands to Grey Gardens. Baghramians enigmatic images knowingly borrow from such categories, but refuse any singular or facile engagement. Instead, the form is physically atomised and meaning is contingent.
Baghramian has described a play of equivalence between object and subject. ‘When the sun hits hair’, says the artist, ‘it is similar to the moment when meaning is produced in an artwork. The supposed neutrality of seeing (the viewing) and the supposed neutrality of the physical (the work of art) collide. Their neutrality becomes visible as an effect. Neutrality can’t withhold itself from the game. That’s when it gets interesting when you can recognise it.’
Nairy Baghramian and Phyllida Barlow