Words by Arghavan Taheri

Lo’bat, an ongoing project by the trio of Iranian Dubai-based artists, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, is on exhibit for the first Toronto Biennial of Art. The artists have been living together in their shared studio-home since 2009, and work in collaboration with other artists and non-artists. Opposed to the mainstream top-down hierarchy of art production, their practice looks at the procedure of art-making as a bottom-up exercise which has always room for development. Inspired by Reza Negarestani’s idea of the system as a set of behaviors that advance from automatism to autonomy, the exhibition comes across as an architectural intrigue.

The work of the three artists is drawn from their surrealist fascination with the Unconscious. Hovering over the space is a robot called Lo’bat that has the appearance of a jellyfish-like parachute. A concept that was proposed by Joan Baixas, choreographed by Francesco Fassone, and programmed by John Cole and Roberto Luttino. The dance that Lo’bat performs is a translation of unpredictable reactions that it displays by observing the ways people navigate in the space. The erratic nature of these movements is the result of the failure of the system and programming the robot which was an intentional effect that the artist aimed to achieve. Hence, similar to architecture it conditions behaviors and responses to them.

Based on the concept of fear, an Iran-based artist Niaz Azadikhah has collaborated with Joan Baixas to develop a series of drawings that became the base for the embroideries on the inner shell of Lo’bat. The embroideries are done by fifteen women who were gathered by the artist from marginalised communities in Tehran as a mean to release their quelled emotions and find closure. Another component of the exhibition are texts written on fabrics reminding the banners in the protests. Each of the texts accounts for a story about fear. Supplementary to the stories, hanging on the wall, there is a line of locks of hair. Each of the fifteen women cut a short piece of their hair, made a wish and sent it to the artists. There is a pink rose lying below each.

Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy of the Toronto Biennial of Art
Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy of the Toronto Biennial of Art

The exhibition is a journey with no start and end point. An effect that artists them-selves refer to as “compatible interruption” is a whimsical world of a turbulent abstraction of how a group of people conceives fear. A proliferated environment that refuses to fit into one artistic medium and provides freedom for the participants to directly negotiate in creating the piece. However, the decision by the three artists to withdraw from their position and to offer the participants central roles in the evolution of their work has been challenged by the bureaucratic system of the art world and its apparatus. A collaboration that became possible through the given budget and the prize that went directly into the participants to rent a studio and buy materials, or was paid as fees and helped some of them to enhance their career.

The Toronto Biennial of Art runs from Saturday, September 21 until Sunday, December 1.

Feature Credits: Photo: Jessica Koba. Courtesy of the Toronto Biennial of Art