a city on the shore of that roaring river
with chaotic palms and nights full of light
…which for years
has opened its arms to him and me.
We encounter our fifth augomaniac on fertile ground, amid the lushness of rich climates where people gather at night to avoid the sweltering texture of the environment. Here, then, light refers to an emancipatory instant of exemption, the chance to dwell outside again, moving in open air and along the cooler waters, though it also welcomes another, more devious potentiality: lights that guide one into the folds of infraction, lapse, and disobedience.
Since we are dealing with a dissenting poetic figure who once wrote that her ‘body exudes green shoots of light’, we must start from the ministered connection between sensuality, wildness, and an especially disruptive kind of luminescence. Thus she tells us of the ‘roaring river’ (soundscape of naturalistic defiance), and mentions that the city itself borders ‘the shore’ (right on the verge of radical openness). Specifically, what we find here is a movement against the pictographic theological light of halos and heavenly beings; instead she returns to an adopted dream of savage liberation, of the body restored to its jungle-properties, and to an accompanying discourse of ripeness in which light is equated (if anything) with impurity over purity.
Untitled, 2018, oil, pigment, gel medium on wood, 36 x 48 inches (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Untitled, 2018, oil, pigment, gel medium, graphite on wood, 24 x 36 inches (61 x 91.4cm)
“…the eternal eyes which Night has opened within us.” —Novalis
—Milton Cruz, excerpt from “The Night Painter,” Raha Raissnia: Selected Works
Compare man to an instrument panel with a thousand
light bulbs; some go out before others turn on.
An extreme fatigue after a long agony, but an abundance
of light, a fear of the northern lights…
Raha Raissnia: Alluvius
The densely-composed charcoal works on view in Raha Raissnia: Alluvius are based on images culled from the artist’s personal archive of found photographic slides. Following Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that the “‘content’ of any medium is always another medium,” one might argue that the content of Raissnia’s drawings is photography. Yet, the drawings on view in the present exhibition are distinct from her photographic sources; rather than producing direct copies, Raissnia abstracts the images she works from, laboriously drawing and rephotographing the original image, transferring the image between paper and celluloid until it becomes unrecognizable. Contextualizing Raissnia’s drawings within a broader consideration of photographic representation, Alluvius shows how Raissnia uses drawing to question photographic images, and even change or expand their meaning.
Raissnia grew up in Tehran during the 1978–79 revolution, and she often accompanied her father, an amateur photographer, on trips to the city center to document mass protests against the Shah. “I knew what my father was up to with his camera everyday going to work,” Raissnia remembers, “several times without my mother knowing he took me downtown to show me what was going on.” Her father’s photographs show men and women wearing both secular dress and chadors, marching while carrying portraits of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the progressive leader ousted with help from the United States in favor of the reactionary Shah, and portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Shia Muslim religious leader and politician who came to power after the Shah was overthrown. In 1983, at the age of fifteen, Raissnia left Tehran with her mother and emigrated to Houston, Texas. When her father passed away a few years later, she inherited his photography equipment, which she would later take with her on visits to Tehran. “On my first few trips back,” Raissnia writes, “with his camera in hand I took slides obsessively; always of what was going on downtown.
Omnicide: Mania, Fatality, and the Future-in-Delirium
Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh
Foreword: In Praise of Abnormal Persistence
Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh’s Omnicide offers readers a view into a unique philosophy of delirium, mania, and vitalist annihilation: the startling revelation that everything that is, should not be. Omnicide is a singular kind of taxonomy, a teratology of thought-creatures that dovetails around his chosen writers, from the revelatory self-abnegation of Forugh Farrokhzad to Sadeq Hedayat, the poète maudite of modern Iran. These and other “poets of the lost cause” come together in a compelling book that is a strange hybrid of Aristotle’s Categories, Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings, and the Necronomicon.
—Eugene Thacker, author of Infinite Resignation and In the Dust of This Planet
Performance setup; Armolfini, Bristol, 2014
From the moment we’re born to the moment we die, an infinite sequence shot passes before us. Now film is nothing more than an ideal camera placed in front of this sequence shot, this continuous unfolding of events that passes before our eyes from birth to death. So, in reality, film is a hypothetical, impossible, infinite sequence shot, as infinite as the reality that passes before our eyes.
–PIER PAOLO PASOLINI
Cryptocrystalline, 2020 [excerpts], 20 film slide projection onto artist screen
These images were made in the computer (this is the first time I am doing this) by using raw materials that were all made by hand. They consisted of ink painting made directly on clear film, segments of my drawings and photographs (both found and taken by me) that got scanned into the computer. For many years I did this process without the computer through meticulously constructing images out of cutting, layering and painting pieces of film together. Here I am doing the cutting and layering in the computer and it has given me a different kind of freedom. I very much enjoy the permutational aspect of working this way which can translate into various forms and mediums.
Galvanoscope 2 (Film A and Film B), 2019, two projectors, two 16mm films, wood, scrim (3 min. loop)
sculpture dimensions: 24 x 32 1/2 x 32 1/2 inches (61 x 82.6 x 82.6 cm), overall installation dimensions variable
Driven by a desire to break away from the conventional cinematic screen, Galvanoscope 2 (Film A and Film B) are comprised of two looped 16mm films projected through semi-transparent, hanging mobile to create an architectural installation that both articulates the light as it moves through space and diffuses it through layers of screen and shadow. This cubic, lamp-like object intercepts the film projector’s light beam and resembles a hybrid sculptural object, at once still and kinetic. The interplay of motion and stillness holds a central role in this seminal work.
In the 16mm films, Raissnia superimposes various footage from her personal archive with imagery sourced from a box of 35mm slides labeled “Sultanate Architecture” that she found in the visual resource archive discarded by Brooklyn College, which depict the ruins of a 14th–century mosque in India. By cropping, splicing, painting, layering and distorting them, her work opens up and complicates the possible denotations of the original photographs.
Confound, 2019, graphite, compressed charcoal, ink, collage on paper. 9 1/2 x 24 inches (24.1 x 61 cm), framed: 13 1/2 x 28 inches (34.3 x 71.1 cm)
In these new works on paper, Raissnia uses a variety of image production techniques – photo transfer, drawing, scanning, and erasure – to create a graphic composition that fuses imagery of circuitry, architecture, and organic forms in an effort to portray an imagined harmony between the natural and man-made world. Raissnia notes: “I was thinking of how technology is advancing rapidly, but humanity lacks the ethics to use it advantageously. Our humanity is in crisis. Rather than depicting despondent imagery of humanity today, I thought of its potential, of its ideals.” The work was composed in sections both through image transfer and from sight. Erasure of printed and sketched forms served to suggest all that was drawn.
Earthwork, 2016, image transfer, ink, compressed charcoal and collage on paper, 12 x 19 inches (30.5 x 48.3 cm)
Selected Works: Raha RaissniaAb-Anbar Gallery, Tehran 2015
Excerpt: “The Night Painter” by Milton Cruz
Nostos, 2017; hand colored silk screen print; folder of 10 prints, each: 6 1/2 x 8 inches (16.5 x 20.3 cm); Edition of 7
Portfolio of ten hand-colored silkscreen prints, which Raissnia produced for her 2017 Drawing Center exhibition.
Raissnia at the entrance of the Bombas Gens Centre d’Art, Valencia, Spain, November 2019