Currently reading : Ashkan Honarvar – Power Collage
Ashkan Honarvar is a contemporary collagist whose recent work has focused on manifestations of evil. From colonialism to murder and post-Civil War public lynchings, his work attempts to question where evil comes from and what it means. How do notions of knowledge play into the execution of cruelty, and what does this seemingly inherent death and decay of our physical bodies do on a universal scale? His work employs a variety of images, from scientific illustrations to medical imagery to amateur photographs of cadavers. By physically manipulating images–cutting, slashing, and splicing them together–Honarvar enacts his own violence, creating new wholes.
The images presented here come from 4 different series of Honarvar’s work. In each of them, Honarvar examines the intersection between “objective” knowledge and power. Conquest 5 (2014) addresses the colonization of Africa and the underlying motives of fiscal power and submission by using images of “native purity.” These National Geographic-style images were, in reality, often highly staged to display prescribed Western visions of “primitiveness.” American Still Life (2013) takes highly controversial lynching photographs to expose the entertainment potential and commercialization of lynching documentation, exploring what the images’ contemporary potency can tell us about continued racism. Identity Lost (2013) addresses the loss of humanity of the figures in medical photographs for the sake of scientific objectivity, and finally, Terra Nullius (2013) exposes the scientific, Darwinian justifications used by Americans and Europeans to seize land from “inferior” natives during the 1800s. The notion of a hierarchy of knowledge types has been continually applied in agriculture; narratives about “land efficiency” have often justified the seizure of tribal lands by Colonial powers to serve commercial agricultural purposes (like rubber, sugarcane, etc.). Similarly, the prizing of Western pharmaceuticals over herbal medicines, is ironic given that we frequently synthesize plant chemicals as medication… The collages’ current resonance makes clear that many of the issues they discuss remain rampant.
Each series necessarily forces viewers to question the intersection of scientific knowledge, power, and subjugation. As inhabitants of countries that prize science’s “objectivity” and potential for progress over the spiritual practices of more “primitive” others, these collages force us to continue probing the meaning of objectivity in the world; how have we determined out world view, and what are the consequences of its domination?
For more of Honarvar’s work, see his website.