"Tir'ras (Target)", 2018
installation, mix media
Curated by Malin Barth
Zartosht Rahimi presents in his exhibition the installation Tir’ras (Target). At first glance man is still the first weapon of war. Two soldiers seemingly confront and threaten each other at point-blank range, but this is a story of deception and as the viewer approaches and comes closer, we find that a third soldier has clear shot directed at us. We are faced with a situation that make most of us uncomfortable and in one way or another we are implicit becoming a part of it.
The installation is only composed by two materials, the ready-made camouflage net and the transparent cnc cut plexiglass figures. The artist is playing with the form, the light, the shadow, and the camouflage, all sign that we need to have insight into the geography of power. And how transparent is their relationship? Invisibly in the background, where most of us don´t recognize them and therefore can´t oppose or resist their influence.
The project Tir’ras (Target) thematizes different aspects and effects of geography of power and war-making. The work invites us to see and discuss some of the more central and inflamed forms of power in our own time. It is the space between the extremes, on one side the underlying issues and relations that might trigger war, which is explored and transformed into the artistic act. We know there is a distinction between direct power, indirect power, consciousness-controlling power and structural power. But we still need to raise the questions of who holds power? Who has the opportunity to use it? Who really uses it, and for what purpose?
Social scientists often emphasize that power is exercised in different ways. Today they talk about the three phases or three dimensions of power. One is power in open conflicts, the second is invisible power overt the agenda, while the third is power over ways of thinking in forms of manipulation.
The first phase, power is seen as a relation between individuals. It is one person’s capacity to comply with others that alter how they act as a consequence of the exerted power. It can be seen in ruling elite systems, where few individuals have significant authority. As such, power is direct, identifying a problem and responding to it in a unique way. Essentially, it’s about making decisions. This can be seen in governmental power, then the government decides, and the decision, can most often be publicly discussed along the manner with opportunities for consultation and challenge. It is all about making decisions. This can be viewed as an ’open phaze,’ where it is evident who makes the choice and why. As this can be seen, with little issue it is more probable to be trusted and therefore obeyed.
The second phase, the agenda provides the more subtle system of power, where decision-making takes place within a complicated scheme. Power is not only about making decisions in this circumstance, but also about setting the agenda that contributes to decisions. In other words, you can affect those decisions if you can regulate the context within which decisions are created. This can be seen in governmental power in desitions taken ’behind closed doors’ and in the ’corridors of power’ where it is rarely evident who decides and why. In such situations, power is retained not only by elected officials, but also by whisperers and assistants setting up meetings, shaping agendas, and writing minutes. It can be seen as a ’secretive phaze,’ where it is not clear who is making the decision. This can lead to issues as other individuals suspect that the decision is based on corrupt components such as political agendas and personal profit.
The third phaze is a much more subtle dimension of manipulating the psychology of anyone and anybody affected. Here, the ability to control what people think is ’ right ’ can lead to unquestionably accepting biased decisions. In state power, this becomes visible in propaganda and spinning, and making speeches that are intentionally intended to alter minds before announcing the rulings. This can be seen as a ’deceptive phaze,’ where manipulation and psychological techniques are the main instrument for shifting values and altering what is essential and important to individuals. The issue with this strategy is that it can result in a massive loss of credibility and lack of trust and resulting in betrayal when it is detected.
All these aspects might be seen to lure within this work of art; Tir’ras (Target).
Rahimi is an artist living and working in Iran. At the age of thirty, he has not been able to travel beyond the boarder of his country yet; this is due to the fact that he is a pacifist and refuses to do his mandatory military service. In general, his artworks bring forth various discourses of his environmental realities. His main artistic concerns are the urge to freedom, exploring ways for universal dialog, paradoxical aspects of politics, culture and religion in Iran. In the work Tir’ras (Target) he focusses on the exercise of power dominated by polarized representations and investigates and discuss the structures that often results in armed attacks. Geo-political constellations and grid locks changes the world constantly. The path of our lives and choices, influence our choices and ways of thinking. How to influence and challenge this dynamic?
It might be natural to discuss Rahimi´s work on the base of the influence of network structure, both within the country as well as that of international relations. Here sets or successions of three or triad exist, keeping in mind the three central figures in the work Tir’ras (Target). The Middle East has become the world’s most polarized region and, paradoxically, its most integrated. The story of the contemporary Middle East is one of a succession of rifts, each new one sitting atop its precursors, some taking momentary precedence over others, none ever truly or fully resolved. The three centers of power in Iran are the Supreme Leader, the president, and the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps. They are competing in shaping the course of Iranian foreign affairs. Their agendas are split. There are much at stake dependent on who draws the longest straw, for it might result in an altered balance of power in Teheran and affect the economic framework, as well as instigator or preventer of war. Since US diplomats were taken hostage in the wake of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, there has been no diplomatic communication channel between Tehran and Washington. Rahimi is also from a generation that grew up in one of Bush´s three countries rhetorical mark: «Axis of Evil». Aristotle used three terms to explain how rhetoric works: logos, pathos, and ethos, something that might affect and mark people exposed to classifying and restrictive labels. Then sketching up a different line of thought; against Iran, but standing united with the USA is Israel. Both countries are perceiving war as part of their resent electoral or coming strategy for re-election. And then there is Saudi Arabia, who joins in on isolation issue of Iran, enemy number one of all three nations. Serious misreadings of the other side´s intentions or actions could quickly escalate to full blown war. Moving on to the White House´s stated objective; overthrowing of the Iranian government. A critical question until recently has been who exercise the most power in achieving this, President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, or National Security Advisor John Bolton (dismissed last week - 10th of September). In Washington the following day, Trump appeared to take a step back from his own administration’s «maximum pressure» operation against Iran.
At the moment of the opening of Tir’ras (Target) at Kunsthall 3,14 it could seem that the US President Donald Trump, was the last to draw the longest straw. The situation in the region may change from day to day or week to week for the duration of the exhibition period, so the text might be updated several times. Regardless, maybe it is appropriate now to quote the British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russel: «War does not determine who is right – only who is left».