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Inside the Head of Farvash

I huvudet på blatten på Plattan is a collaborative exhibition of two equally compelling artists; Farvash and Roxy Farhat, presented by MISSCHIEFS for its takeover of the circular 500m2 storefront called 'Superellipsen', situated on 'Plattan' on Sergelstorg, in the very heart of Stockholm. Described as an exhibition which inside its locale transforms into a subconscious landscape and gateway into the head of an artist, the exhibition places emphasis on the pressing notion of mental health and the impact that navigating between contradicting cultural norms bears on the matter. Speaking of being conflicted between different selves, Farvash refers to self-censorship as a focal point at hand. "There’s also a reality where I’m the one who is willingly submitting myself to constant adjustment and adaptations out of both guilt and gratitude towards my parents who have sacrificed so much for me to be the position I am today.", she says.


Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini


C-P: This collaborative exhibition with Roxy Farhat really struck me in so far surveying mental health; about carrying the weight and burden of the at times contradicting thoughts, interests and ideas that fill upp the space in our heads. Also, interestingly, the materialization and disposition of the exhibition to me appeared partially a play on the dichotomy of what goes in must necessarily find a way out. What a friend of mine in the past described effortlessly as the very logical condition of “skit in, skit ut”. What were some crucial points of departures in the exhibition on your end?

FARVASH: There’s mental health as a theme here, yes, and the focal point as with much of my artistic practice throughout the years is the interconnection between personal autonomy and self-censorship, where the latter is based on the voices in close proximity from me that dictate what actions are carried out by me or not towards the world. As a person of immigrant background in Sweden I’m in a sense very privileged to be living in a society where freedoms and liberties are largely enjoyed by me in everyday life. At the same time as compared to my culturally exclusive Swedish peers, my privileges might be less as I’ve found myself, all my life, navigating between two sets of different cultural norms, where one stems from my own family and heritage, and the expectations and wishes imposed on me that come with that turf. In that light, I cannot be entirely free to live the life I’d otherwise wish to and there’s a constant negotiation within myself as well as outside of the self.


Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini


Regarding my parents I must recognize that they too are part of a hereditary chain of affirming honor and acting out a responsibility they feel towards people before them and around them which impact their rapport with me. Oppression of honor comes in varying nuances, also in a liberal and progressive family such as mine. It’s a limbo, to one day feel like you are this person and another day having to be that person. The reason I speak of self-censorship as opposed to solely censorship is because there’s also a reality in there where I’m the one who is willingly submitting myself to constant adjustment and adaptations out of both guilt and gratitude towards my parents who have sacrificed so much for me to be the position I am today. That’s where performance becomes so pivotal in my practice to really understand for myself, what I do that is an act of censorship and what is self-censorship because you become so habituated that it clouds your view. In the aftermath of enactments and reenactments while in performance modus this becomes a lot clearer.

Despite all the apparent seriousity, there is also humour and self-irony in the midst which find itself through certain conditions inside the exhibition. I think of the installation as a whole as seated somewhere perhaps between a dollhouse and funhouse. A dollhouse in so far there's an exploration of various room, looking beyond the alluring surface and probing what really lies beneath, when no one is looking. Funhouse, because there's a sense of surprise and not quite knowing what to expect will happen in there. In one of the rooms, there's a countdown waiting for something that never happens. At the same time some things are subject to constant loop and repetition which creates a humorous atmosphere marked by absurdity.


Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini

C-P: Through Roxy Farhat’s output in the exhibition with video, your mother appears as a central figure throughout the exhibition with whom you “level” and visibly and directly relate to. What can be said about the choice of collaborating with her and including her so literally?

FARVASH: In having these ongoing discussions with my parents about censorship and self-censorship it’s also made also sense to hands-on work with them, because they are essentially already found at the core of what prompts my artistic practice. Recognizing that as a fact becomes important when attempting to dismantle some of the notions I work around. I recently worked with both of my parents in a performance where my dad carried out calligraphic writing on my naked vulnerable body with a certain kind of paint I had crated that turned transparent and came into view as poetry once my mother froze my skin. As far as my mother goes in this exhibition, Roxy had previously worked around mothers and had also wanted to film mine. The gestures you see my mother’s face doing in the exhibition represent an array of silent imperatives to act that dictate my actions and visualize what I was describing before about expectation and the root of adjustment. Her gestures are on the one hand sophisticated, warm and dignified and on the other crude and direct. In the exhibition she represents herself as my own mother but also the mothers of others who can relate with me. I think of it as my parents both having been the roadblock and wind in my artistic practice, at once. They are what have driven me forward but have also inserted hurdles for me to overcome. On that note, I remember fondly when I was studying at Konstfack and my mother would stop by late with food for everyone; there would be the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dish so that everyone could have and join. She would in those very moments act the mother of everyone.


Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini

C-P: You mentioned a misperception earlier that you are a “tech artist”, all the while your art certainly informs technology which makes a visible part of this exhibition. I’m very impressed by how rigorous the technical connections to set this exhibition up appears to be and impressed by the kinetic sculptures that clean and sweep the floor in one part of the exhibition.


FARVASH: Technology in a sense is everything to me. Since very early in my life I have not entirely been able to live the life I wanted and a way to cope with that has been to create fiction and futuristic scenarios, where technology made an essential part. I’ve always associated technology with privilege. To take charge of technology is to take charge and command of the future body, one which we are not yet in possession of, but someone one day will be. They who possess new technologies are also the ones who preside over the world. I research and develop my own new materials to be independent from the capital scheme. To be independent from such material oppression that today is seen for instance against the Middle East. When I create artworks which bear transformative qualities, e.g. shift in colours or movement, it directly mirrors to me the sort of camouflaging and adaptations on another level that I go through myself in life. Again, there is a connection to how our human mannerisms are subject to constant adjustment and change.


Video Loop 4’15 Cash & Tehran, 0011668 & Sp0re, 2021, in I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Farvash & Roxy Farhat, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021.


C-P: This site you are on for the exhibition which is commonly classed “Plattan” is such an iconic one in Stockholm, located at the very heart of the city, so much so that is could really be attributed a public living room. On a personal note, what makes it so significant to you as the locale of this exhibition?

FARVASH: "Plattan" is one of the few sites in the inner-city parts of Stockholm where people too from the million-project suburbs move and frequent. When I was 12, I had barely been to the inner-city, but it is significant that I had meanwhile already been to "Plattan". It’s incredible how almost every societal class and layer is found here, except for the upper-class which find their way to move around it without having to directly pass through it. If you closely observe how people move on Plattan you see how it is actually divided in different “parts” that activate different norms of conduct. There is e.g. the dirty part on which people pee and some will inevitably avoid, there is the part where kids hang out and dance, and the part where so and so will go as opposed to them and them.


Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini


The square while such a seemingly open and public space is factually not always open and has open hours between 6.30 and 10.30 PM. When I was asked how long I wanted to carry out my daily performance, I didn’t want to state any hours. I simply said; “Until I’m kicked out”. My objective as an artist is to communicate what I do and for a broad and vast audience to get to interact with my art and me. There’s always layers in what I do. Such that pull you closer on an instant level, and such you only find and that unveils itself as you engage further. So, accessibility is of paramount importance here. I was ultimately granted permission two nights to stay overnight in the space and continue the performance despite the public curfew. I deliberately placed my “bedroom” in the exhibition space looking out towards the part where the most marginalized people move. For me it’s been important to access the whole of "Plattan" while I’m here, and for the whole of "Plattan" to access me through this exhibition on view.

Farvash & Roxy Farhat, I huvudet på blatten på plattan, Misschiefs Takeover Plattan, 2021, photo: Daniel Camerini


C-P to Roxy Farhat: What was your experience like working with Farvash’s mother and what does the emphasis on facial gestures and expressions found in your work, signify to you? R.F: In the past couple of years I’ve started to increasingly incorporate other people’s footage into my work, primarily stock footage of people doing a variety of gestures and facial expressions. Working with Farvash’s mother was a really fun collaboration, oddly enough partly because I wasn’t able to be present for the shoot. Instead I gave Farvash instructions on what type of footage I would like to have, and it ended up being a really great process. In similarity with the stock footage I work with, I wasn’t in control of the footage but rather had to work with what I was given, and that opens up for possibilities I wouldn’t have thought of myself.


And as far as what the emphasis on gestures and expressions signify for me, my curiosity lies in what they signify to or become for the viewer. Stock footage is meant to be used for basically anything, and usually for selling something, but when you don’t add a product, clear context or narrative, the “message” becomes a lot more ambiguous. We’re wired to find meaning in expressions and in moving images and that’s what I think is exciting about the ambiguity of the videos. What do the expressions mean to you? That I would love to know.



Farvash's & Roxy Farhat's I huvudet på plattan has been on view between June 21-27 on Plattan, Sergelstorg, presented by Misschiefs.

Guest Artists (The voices): Kaushikee Gupta, New Delhi Eleni Tomadaki, Athens Emma Dominguez, Stockholm Elle Azhdari, Stockholm 011668 (Art Collective Sp0re), London & Los Angeles

www.misschiefs.se

www.farvash.com

www.roxyfarhat.com