Amir Mogharabi - My work is theoretical insofar as theory emerges from the death of philosophy; or more importantly, from the death of metaphysics and morals. Early modernism mourned this death productively through a variety of conduits. The “narrative” was central to the reconsideration of painting for example. Abstraction sought to eliminate narrative content on the canvas, while Surrealism defiantly attempted to re-introduce it.
Either way, both sought autonomy in art. That is, art that speaks on its own behalf.
Theory in this way also became a creative mode of writing. One that was aware of its ineptitude, of its inability to ascertain a truth-value. And so, there was a concomitant turn from the tenets of Philosophy and Truth, to the rhetoric of self-reflexivity that came to be called theory. Since the majority of questions at the heart of Philosophy, are premised on contradictions, (and cannot be answered by way of their being asked) then perhaps it is not the role of language to “decode” these questions, but the role of something experiential, and not rational. Something like art, perhaps.
That is, if we learn to consider art as a medium for inquiry in itself. And accept the ambiguity of its answers, then we can also accept it as something that does not need to be “decoded” because it has no rational reference.
Installation view, “Amir Mogharabi and Jeffrey Perkins”, Daniel Reich Gallery, New York, 2009. Courtesy: the artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York.
JS You developed a style with your texts that is quite unique. You said to me that when Walter Benjamin decided to use aphorisms in his writings nobody could understand them but he insisted saying that for him modern times were conceived through aphorisms. Are we still there? If not where?
AM I think Benjamin was referring to a contemporary shift in form and thought. As soon as production occurred on an industrial level, what once made craft unique, suffered an irrevocable turn away from what happens at the level of the hand coinciding with the spirit.
Nietzsche, who also predicted the end of metaphysics, already wrote the majority of his masterpieces in aphorisms. These were honest reflections taken from his notebooks, and reproduced as they were written, both in content and form. This was a problem for translators and publishers: deciding whether or not to connect the fragments that he expounded with his customary vigor and irony. And, when later in the 20th century Walter Benjamin was asked why he wrote in aphorisms, his response was that their form corresponded with the content of what modernism had at the essence of its discourse.
I wouldn’t say that my writing style is developed. But that it is continuously developing, intuitively responding to how we consume information-based material, in an era when (whether or not we are aware) language is no longer used to communicate content, but to exchange other abstractions. Feeling this shift, or admitting an almost bodily relation to it, spatiality becomes an important element in my writing. Where, one can allow the reader to breathe, by simply following a word like breath, with an empty space on the page.
JS Tell me about the series of lectures you did at Elizabeth Dee in New York. You made an installation meant to host a series of private meetings. What was the purpose?
AM Well, the lectures take as their titles, individual words from the title of a Henry Flynt piece I am inspired by. Each lecture arbitrarily corresponds to one of innumerable elements, in what is now categorized as a four-part installation. The “purpose’ of the lectures was not to be didactic, but to engage an audience I see as complimenting my practice, in a process similar to what occurs in my writing, performance, and installation.
The “equivalence of the dissimilar”, “dissociation”, “new geometry”, “co-coincidences” and “retroactivity” all contribute to the structure and motion of the lectures. These are ideas whose definitions I refuse to give from the foreground, but insist on experiencing during their enactment. The concluding lectures assemble material developed during the course, and contribute to the third book in an ongoing series I recently commenced.
Installation view, unosunove, Rome, 2010. Courtesy: the artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York.
JS How do you relate your artistic practice with your editorial activity, specifically the publication of the magazine Farimani?
AM Someone once commented that my performances insofar, are a real time editing of space. Where I organize the possibilities during the performance itself. I liked this, because it was a perspective I agreed with, but had not thought of.
My work is premised on sincerity. For me, conceptual, or theoretical work, is plagued by a foregrounding of the idea, in the presence, or absence, of particular materials and situations. Conceptualism in this way did nothing more than reverse the semiotic order it intended to criticize. It indexed an object with an idea. But this is precisely why the redundancy of a particular, pseudo minimal style that is justified by a grandiose concept, is now problematic.
The pre-occupation with knowing what one’s work means or does, has pigeon holed a natural impetus that “must come from somewhere deeper than the intellect” as Adrian Piper once said.
Farimani, like other signifiers in my practice, does not have a reference. I admittedly do not know the direction it will take, but I do know that successive issues (much like successive performances, paintings, or prose of mine) will develop in someway from out of the last.
And, in order to correspond with its top-down evolution, each issue in the eleven-issue project grows larger to correspond in form with what I consider a meta-project. That is, my life, and yours, and ours, all hopefully affected by new geometries that would have otherwise been left undiscovered.
Had I commenced with a pre-existing idea.
I once said in another interview referencing Marcel Proust, that Farimani is a “book searching for itself ”.
It is also my mother’s maiden name.
JS Amir Mogharabi but also Allais Young and Coco Du Nom, or X and Y as you like to say. Tell me more about these identities and the concept of “lying” related to your practice.
AM Allais Young and Coco Du Nom are identities without the (I). They too, are empty referents. However, they developed from a retroactive consideration of two elements in a project of mine entitled Stone. The elements, or minerals, together created the composite of a stone that was the center of my discussions regarding the ineffability of experience, with theorists like Michael Hardt and Jacques Rancière. One part, geometric and smooth, I labeled (X) to emphasize the chronological or rational axis that history follows. The other, formless and impossible to categorize, I labeled (Y). These later became Coco Du Nom and Allais Young respectively. Coco Du Nom intentionally works under rational constraints. Allais Young attempts to forfeit intentionality altogether.
My work exists, somewhere at the cross-section of their categorization.
As for lying, I consider a lot of work that is reasoned into existence to be a lie, or an error, on which we have premised truth. Much like a triangle, or the word triangle for example. As for how lying plays into my over-arching practice, well that I cannot say, because then it would become merely a fiction.