In the rectangular space of Darbast Platform in Tehran, 365 images are hanging from the ceiling with semi-transparent strings at different heights around the eye level of the audience. The hanging images are an installation of a new archive of daily micro-installations created by Tara Fatehi Irani throughout 2017. Every day throughout the year, the artist has left behind a photograph or document copied from her family archive from Iran in public spaces wherever she has passed through. On the back of each image, the artist has written a title for each piece and the location where it is left, the temperature and a description of a dance which she has performed on site. There is also a message to the finder, inviting them to keep the image, get in touch and view the rest of the project.
One of the walls of the space is brightened with fragments of videos – their vague urban noises and at-times-noticeable dialogues fill the space. Throughout the three-hour duration of the performance, the performer, Fatehi Irani herself, floats around the space and narrates stories from her encounters with the passersby throughout the project and older stories from the people in the archive photos. The audience can walk around, in and out of the space, read the back of each image with their phone torches or sit on the few scattered chairs. The space is dimly lit and to see each image you need to pause and linger for a moment. The flâneur-like audience discovers a new piece of the fragmented narrative at every look.
Time and place are continuously transformed with the aid of the visuals, the space and the words. “Grandmother is standing, in a dress with amber buttons, under a bridge in South West London – not in the reality of her own time, in the reality of mine”. Thus, the artist starts a story that the viewers can continue in their own imagination. Each person in the room pictures a different image: the artist’s archive is made public and is subsequently reterritorialised and personalised to the number of the viewers.
What we see and hear in ‘Mishandled Archive’ is not limited to one narrator – several voices are heard. It is as if we are wandering in the aural and visual space of a polyphonic text that relieves the many voices of its characters from a singular dominant authority. Each of us viewers can rearrange the elements of the piece to imagine new histories again and again. Bodies of the audience cast shadows on the videos – present bodies mixed with images from the past project a new image into the future. By tearing apart and mishandling a personal archive and placing it into other geographies and histories, Fatehi Irani links her world of consciousness to multiple other sensitivities and eventually to infinite possible yet unknown narratives. The obsession in installing this piece in a daily ritual for a year is evidence for the invention of everyday life in the passing of time.