Stepping into the sci-fi and futuristic world Mamali Shafahi has created in Tehran’s Moshen gallery, at once confronts the viewer with the paradox of our present moment. The real and the imagined colliding in the aptly titled V [!] R o l l u r g y: #Fake news and fake science, Shafahi brings his ongoing fascination for biotechnologies, augmented reality and, the future in sculptural, mixed media and filmic installations. Whilst looking at both past and present, a past informed the strong impression his artist father made on him, and at the same time dealing with a present full of contradictions where virtual reality and consciousness through the digital continues to permeate real lived experiences, the artist asks the question of us: To what extent do we aim to control the relationship between technology and emotion, the decay of human existence, and the ways in which we live and labour through the machine and Internet, in times of the increasing influence of new technologies on our feelings and actions?
One of the ways to answer this is to present a universe of sorts and representation of the world as experienced through the exhibition space. A large mouth made of silicon and inspired by a futuristic device conceived in Japan, a disturbing robot mouth that mimics human voice while evoking erotic devices such as an inflatable doll. The theme of narcissism, a long concern of man is explored in a two-meter high fibreglass sculpture that depicts a young girl looking at her reflection in a bowl of water. An image also commonly found in ancient Persian iconography or traditional Hafez’ poetry of a character observing his/her lover or God in the reflection of a cup of water/wine. Contemporary obsession as we are all aware, is manifested heavily through the internet, in social media and the quest to take the perfect image i.e. selfie. Then there is a striking assemblage of seven fridges displayed on the gallery’s upper level that is filled with leftover beauty products, giving the impression of an apocalyptic cemetery of objects.
Shafahi highlights the British documentary, Black Mirror, created by journalist and writer Charlie Brooker, with its sharp, suspenseful, satirical tales that explore techno-paranoia revealing our collective unease about the modern world. These teams of unease and uncertainty are manifested in V [!] R o l l u r g y, which really asks of us to take a step back from processes that we might not fully understand ultimately obscure our vision of the world today.
By Jareh Das