BAR Resident Project: Sensible Grounds: Inhale, Azar Mahmoudian

With Nasrin Tabatabei y Babak Afrasiabi
Installation and screening of films on “chronic” states

Tàpies Foundation
October 23rd – November 14th, 2021
A project in collaboration with 4Cs, Creative Europe and the Tapies Foundation.

Inhale (2016-2021) is an archive of fictional narratives and sounds that trace opium smoke in the junction of writing and breath. The narratives are written passages that chronicle instances of opium use in Iranian modern and contemporary novels and short stories from the last and present centuries. Each passage is a miniature scene of social interactions, with the opium as the central agent. Read together, they imply a genealogy of the opium smoke channelled through various characters, objects and situations, mobilised to inhale, pass on, filter and navigate the smoke. A number of sculptural objects produced for the iteration at the Tapies Foundation, extend this genealogy and the figure of “passage”. They hold an algorithmically produced archive of sounds that simulate the breath sound as it is affected by the continuous inhalation of opium smoke: Opium smoke enters the lung and the deposition of carbon dust in the airways affects the breath sound, increasing the probability of crackles and wheezes in the various airways.

The installation by Tabatabai and Afrassiabi is accompanied by the films Night of The Hunchback (1964) by Farrokh Ghaffari and Thicker Than Paint Thinner (2011) by Babak Afrassiabi. While in “Inhale” opium smoke passes from one scene to the other, permeating the human narratives and setting forth its own forms of sociality, the films on display, expand on notions of the passage, the residue, and the “chronic” states, in the context of embodied histories and necropoetics.
The multi-chapter program Sensible Grounds, curated by Azar Mahmoudian is a collection of moving image practices including sculptural installations, archival material, and films that test fiction and other conventions sometimes even doing away with images entirely. It contemplates historical capacities of the cinematic space as physical and mental environment, in double acts of bearing witness and re-visioning worlds. The program begins by thinking through the continuity of intergenerational time and memory and the uncanny repetitions of our political struggles throughout history. It attempts to understand such chronic experiences neither as pathological
loops or loopholes nor as preemptive absorptions of our struggles by the constancies of history. Rather, it approaches it as stretched and dilated presents. Borrowing the term “Chronic” from the drug culture, Elisabeth Freeman brilliantly re-articulates the “chronic” states as tearing apart of dominant temporalities of the linear, a condition in which multiple and varied presences and rhythms are possible. In this way, intergenerational time and memory could become holding grounds for concurrent and synchronized struggles.

Recent iterations of the program include That’s How We Undo It at Lux, London; and Tuning into the Rhythms of the Chronic at Nida Art Colony.

The program is presented as part of the European Cooperation project 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, co-funded by Creative Europe.

Azar Mahmoudian