Yasi Alipour

My creative process is founded on an urgent need to understand and a longing to act. The story of my homeland, Iran is formed by an interruption, the modern nation-state was constructed through Imperialism and so we, the civil society, were born in defiance. And hence our never-ending series of paradoxes were born. The interruption ripples, it muddies all that preceded it, echoes in all that followed, and becomes foundation to our disturbed contemporary.

I create to face the current moment by understanding this past. My historic queries begin in the world of academia and then become raw material for my artistic practice, sculptures, installations, performances, drawings, writings, lectures and experimentations. My aim is to contemplate with the urgency in which my body remembers living this history.  My goal is to use my hand, to think where my academically trained mind fails. My upbringing has been in defiance of the history the state employed as propaganda. In response there was oral history, tales told from one to the next, fading memories passed between one to the next. I long to make with such ephemeral and deep care.

In my work in progress, Foucault in Iran, Edward Said Dies In New York, and I’m Standing Right Here (2018), my hands lead the way. I long to speak with my regions history of visual arts beyond the nationalist and orientalist narratives. So, I fix my gaze to what has inspired me all of my life, Middle East’s geometric abstractions found in all its ceilings, architectures, carpets, designs, and everyday life. Using only my hand and paper, I test, examine, sketch, draw, sculpt and make. The paper gives me a chance to be fragile, to move, to test, to play, to fail. A universe slowly opens up to me that is far beyond my education, Modernity’s binary logic. Left with only my hand, the surface of the paper and the memory of the forms borrowed from the visual heritage of my region, I long to surpass the authority of modern history and let my body touch the past. The reminiscent sculpture, the folded black paper, is a witness of this journey. It is a map of all the longings and desires that goes with this need to reconnect to what preceded the historic interruption.

Projects such as (Un)Doing of a Book; Thirty Years, a Pictorial History of Iran after the Revolution (2016) pick history as their subject. Here the subject is a propaganda history book published by the Islamic Republic of Iran that employs photojournalism. In this endurance performance, I battle this book with my body. For each one of the 1396 pages of the book, the photographs are taken out and the page is left with only the state’s text. The pages are then mounted on the wall one by one and in sequence. After the corpse of the book, the emptied pages, are hung in their entirety, I return to the wall and take each page back and make the book again. The futile cycle is an ode to my generation’s obsession to make sense of this troubled history.

In other projects, I marvel on the contemporary moment. In response to the USA’s recent election, A Think Tank: Without an Agenda, Without the Self Confidence. Without Hope (2017) considers the politics and possibilities of despair. In the initial stage, the installation titled I borrow the logic of the Islamic geometric art, design, and create an absurd, fragile space for the urgent contemplation that goes beyond our contemporary pragmatism. In the next stage, the project becomes a performance that is activated by the public. In this iteration, the space is brought to the street and is used for workshops that invite the passersby in. In one of the days of the four-day performance, a game of Monopoly is introduced where the board has been altered to reflect the power dynamics of the Cold War era; USA, Soviet Union, and other Imperial powers become the players and countries like Iran the streets to be bought and sold. The game is to turn the pedestrians into collaborators, playmates. The result is a sincere dialogue where all the weight and desires of our disturbed histories are present.

“I think we live at a point of extreme darkness and extreme brightness. Extreme darkness, because we really do not know from which direction the light would come. Extreme brightness, because we ought to have the courage to begin anew. […] We have to construct another political thought, another political imagination, teach anew the vision of a future.” Michel Foucault writes these inspiring words in 1978 on the eve of my homeland’s revolution. It is as inspiring as it is sad. History would fail him. The revolution he placed his hope in resulted in the brutal suppressive regime I know.

In the same year, Edward Said sat somewhere in New York to write his book Orientalism, what came to be a blueprint for my generation to understand our troubled Middle East. He would look back at it years later, the book “is written out of an extremely concrete history of personal loss and national disintegration.” We read his words and swim in his despair, knowing our future desperately needs more.

One either hopes or not. I spiral / One either thinks or act / Unable to settle with either, I make.

Education

MFA Visual Arts / 2018 / New York, USA — Columbia University
BFA Photography / 2015 / New York, USA — School of Visual Arts
BS Computer Science / 2011 / Tehran, Iran — University of Tehran

Selected Group Exhibitions

2018 “Summer Show,” Times Square Space, New York, NY
“Draw (Over),” Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Novi Sad, SRB
“MFA Thesis Exhibition,” Wallach Art Gallery, New York, NY 2017 “Senses,” Art in Odd Places, New York, NY
Visual Notes for an Upside-Down World,” PPOW, New York, NY
“Summer Show,” False Flag Projects, Brooklyn, NY
“Make _ Place,” New York Immigration Coalition, New York, NY
“First Year Show,” Wallach Art Gallery, New York, NY
“We Love Decay,” Flat Iron Project Space, New York, NY

2016 “Light of Interior,” Art Therapy Project, Brooklyn, NY

2015 “SVA,” Miami Pulse Art Fair, Miami, FL “Oneric Apparatus,”ATP, Brooklyn, NY
“Mentors,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY “Intricacies of Being,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY
“Wora” A.Pop, Brooklyn, NY
“Either Way I’m Celebrating,”148 Stanton, New York, NY

2014 “Between Two Thoughts,” SVA Chelsea Gallery, New York, NY “Pantoum,” SVA BFA Photography, New York, NY

2013 “Photography in Southern France,” SVA BFA Photography, New York, NY
2012 “Rêves De Provence,” Maison de Sante Saint-Paul, Provence, France

Curatorial Projects

2017 “Art of ‘Whose’ People,” LeRoy Neiman Art Gallery, New York, NY
2015 “Social Ecologies,” Assistant, Industry City Gallery, New York, NY

Awards and Residencies

2018 Publication Intensive, Triple Canopy, NY
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Fellowship Columbia University, NY
D’Arcy Hayman Scholarship Columbia University, NY

2017 Visual Arts Lecture Series Fellowship Columbia University, NY
Fellow, Visual Arts Office Columbia University, NY
Student Representative Columbia University, NY
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Fellowship Columbia University, NY
D’Arcy Hayman Scholarship Columbia University, NY
Agnes Martin Fellowship, Columbia University, NY
Mildred’s Lane Residency and Fellowship, Beach Lake, PA

2016 Agnes Martin Fellowship, Columbia University, NY Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts
Interdisciplinary Artist Residency and Grant, Nebraska City, NE

2015 SV, Mentors Program: Dr. Maryam Ekhtiar, Associate Curator, Department of
Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Selected Bibliography

2018 Draw (Over), “Contemporary Drawing from LeRoy Neiman until Today”, MSUV
2016 “Téhéran, L’art Renouvelé” Bilan Magazine
2016 “Rituals” Museé Magazine, No 10, Page 108

Publication

2018 The Brooklyn Rail
“Journey to South: Makan Ashgvari’s To Trucks” May 2018

2017 Asia Contemporary Art Week, Arte East
“New Media Society” 2017
The Brooklyn Rail
“Marinella Senatore: Piazza Universale/Social Stages” July 2017
“Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms” May 2017

2016 The Brooklyn Rail
“Phil Collins: How to make a Refugee” September 2016 “But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise” July/August 2016 “Shimone Attie: Facts on the Ground” June 2016
“Nicky Nodjoumi: You and Me” April 2016
“I Am a Lie and I am Gold” March 2016
The Photograph Magazine
“Kamolpan Chotvicha,” July/August 2016
“Ann Parker” May/June 2016
“Gus Powell” Mar/Apr 2016
“Walid Raad” January/February 2016, Page 62

2015 The Brooklyn Rail
“Power of Pictures” December 2015/January 2016
“Adam Fuss λόγος” November 2015, Page 45
“Letter from Tehran” October 2015, Page 52-53
“Shirin Neshat, Facing History” September 2015, Page 70
“Wael Shawky, Cabaret Crusades” July/August 2015
“Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Infinite Possibilities” May 2015, Page 90 “To All the Pomegranates We Lost Along the Way” April 2015
“Nicoló Degiorgis, Hidden Islam” March 2015, Page 101 The Dear Dave
“Hidden Islam,” Summer/Fall 2015, Page 46-49

2014 Come Together: Surviving Sandy
“Self Portrait (Pink T-shirt): Roy, Chuck Close”

Work Experience

Director of Advertising, The Brooklyn Rail / July 2018 –
Fellow, LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies Columbia University / Jan 2017 – May 2018
Fellow, Visual Arts Office Columbia University / Sep 2016 – May 2018
Teaching Assistance

  1. A)  “Sculpture 1” K. Olujimi, Visual Arts, Columbia University / Sep 2017 – Dec 2017
  2. B)  “Beginning Video” S. Silver, Visual Arts, Columbia University / Jan 2017 – Apr 2017
  3. C)  “Abstract Photography” E. Matczack, BFA Photography, SVA / Jan 2016 – Apr 2016
  4. D)  “Critical Eye” L. Rexer, BFA Photography, SVA / Sep 2015 – Dec 2015
  5. E)  “Logic” Dr. Alizadeh, Dep. of Mathematics, University of Tehran / Jan 2009 – May 200

The Brooklyn Rail
A) “Digital Art Director”, The Brooklyn Rail / Feb 2016 – July 2016
B) “Production Assistant”, The Brooklyn Rail / May 2014 – Feb 2016
Student Representative Columbia University / Jan 2016 – Dec 2016
Operations Coordinator SVA Gallery / Oct 2015 – Feb 2016
Assistant Editor inTranslation / Sep 2015 – Sep 2016
Research Assistant “Beyond the Edge” and “The Critical Eye: Fifteen Pictures” by L. Rexer / Jan 2015 – Apr 2016