My work is often framed within an urban setting and inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s writings on the 19th century concept of the "Flaneur" and diffusing the idea of urban space being reserved for the practice and performance of the white, middle class, hetero-sexual male. Instead I choose to highlight those individuals who would ordinarily be marginalized, made invisible or forced into self-‘ghettoisation' from the urban domain such as migrant communities and their culture, particularly the communities from the Middle East and their diaspora. The question of visibility and invisibility, therefore, has been a situation that I actively explore within my practice, mostly with reference to my earlier video work.
In my film i?
(2004), I revisit the conceptual nature of Beckett’s only film, called Film, starring Buster Keaton and made in 1965. He locks himself up in his apartment to keep all alien gazes out. He tears up every image that presents looking as a mutual act of communication, all the while never showing his face. My video i? is not a remake of Beckett’s Film. The differences between Beckett’s Film and my video are important: The figure in Beckett’s film is mostly alone with his identity crisis; his running, climbing and scuttling around appears to emerge from a deep need. But in my video i? , the examining of identity is related to the confusion of the multicultural city. To Beckett’s 22 minutes, I made a 4.17 minutes’ film in a loop. The illustrative ending is gone, and replaced by a circular construction. The beginning, when the main protagonist looks into the mirror while shaving, is backed up to the ending, which is double. First, he enters his home through the door, then arrives there and cannot open the door. Looking into the mirror is completely different after having been a mirror to others all day long. Those differences turn the later film into a critical commentary on the earlier one, in true postmodernist fashion. But it is also clear that this is a dialogue, not a rejection, of everything that Beckett’s film contains but keeps hidden: most importantly, the logic of the combination of going out in a public space while hiding of the face.
Since the video work i? I started a big series with the so-called “migrant-figure” that embodies clichés of the West on behaviors of various migrants, especially those from the Mid-East. While women from this region are often seen as the oppressed, men are seen as the aggressor, the potential fundamentalist, the terrorist. The migrant figure is a somewhat minimalist version of what Western Europeans imagine as the migrant (the so-called “guest worker”): a cheap suit, old-fashioned shoes, and a suitcase. While the video i? has a complex narration and deals with a twin migrant-figure, as if a split personality, the later videos with the migrant figure show him in very reduced actions, e.g. in Caution
(2004). After working with the “migrant-figure” I started a new series of videos and photographs, with new figures of migrants, also meeting the various prejudices: Islamic Star
(2005), as the Islamic fundamentalist; Mehmet
(2005), as the Kurdish activist; Miguel
(2005) as the Guerilla-guy; Mladen
(2005), as the criminal from the Balcans. Here the conception of the figures is radicalized: they are no longer the almost invisible friendly helper of the German reconstruction. Some of these figures are having a huge auto-aggression, burning themselves, firing a grenade next to themselves.
What does it mean, if I, a male-artist, put myself in the position of a “criminal” and a negative element in society? Does this mean to repeat the aggression of Western society and direct it against myself as an act of catharsis? In my eyes it is quite unusual, that a male artists works with his own body, in this sense of course, beyond the fetish. Therefore I think that it is an interesting question in terms of analyzing the position of migrants, especially if you compare my auto-aggressive performances to the ones of the female artists since the 1970s.
While I exhibited my video works and installations actively and world wide, for some years it was not very well-known that I also use the medium of drawing
since a significant number of years. Since the middle of the last decade, my drawings also often deal with aspects of identity and the complex of seeing and being seen. In the drawing series Fresh Me
(2003/10) for example I use ethnological sketches from the prime time of “Orientalism” and reinterpret them, also by giving the clichéd male protagonists my own facial features. In the series Carrying Man
(2012) I show myself during various attempts to “master” a suitcase, which is a symbol from my early performances. The series includes my attempts of blowing up the suitcase, of using it as a backing during the attempt to hang myself, or of using it as a rowboat to move away. In recent time, drawing becomes the center of my practice. Often I use mixed media, e.g. ball pen and metal glitter on paper – like in the series Quartet Drawings
(2011). A connective element in the series is a golden figuration in one of each drawing‘s corner that reminds us of an Oriental ornament but varies from it because of its irregularity and it strange content: The figuration reminds us of arms and hands threateningly sprawled out. Compared to the video performances, the drawings allow me a more complex depiction of the inner processes and the outer factors as a base for my protagonists’ actions. Recently, I started a new body of work that no longer include my own features but strongly relates to folklore and elements of (Iranian) fables and fairy-tales. The elements are in a way rather abstract depiction of particular stereotyped figures.
Also, the works Das kleine Schwarze
(2003-05) and Golden Edition
(2011) are made on paper, but they are based on “found images” in fashion magazines, ads or posters. The body of work reflects the situation right after the Islamic revolution and the requirement for religious Shiite women to wear the black chador. At the same time, a censorship of female imagery in books and magazines in the public libraries and universities within the country had also begun. As such pictures of uncovered female heads and parts of the body were either cut out from the printed matter or covered with paint in order to transfer them into the only valid aesthetics. After September 11th, the chador became the metaphor for radical Islamism, and, in addition, the symbol for the question of releasing women in the Middle East from male oppression. In the body of works that I started in 2001, I began - in an ironic and humorous fashion - the act of mimicing censorship within my home country to “islamize" the Western fashion world through veiling all the female bodies and faces shown in the printed matter I selected. In Golden Edition, the chador turned into a highly glamorous fashion item.
For the past couple of years, I developed also the so-called Parasite Architecture
. The idea of Parasite Architecture is rooted in the idea of the "informal", meaning everything which is - either intentionally or nor - temporary, inchoate, weak, imperfect, unfinished or formless ("l´informe" as firstly proposed by Georges Bataille). The concept of the "informal" was developed by various artists, theorists, and architects since the 1960s. The analysis is carried out in the context of questioning aspects of social communication (Gordon Matta-Clark), of the feminist deconstruction of space (Rita McKeough), of ideas of nomadism and psycho-geography as made popular by Deleuze + Guttary and the Situationists, and the technological, being influenced by virtual reality's increasing popularity. Focusing the aspect of the transient within the idea of the informal, Parasite Architecture relates it to questions of migration and cultural diversity. Beyond the literal sense of "weak" structures, it combines various architectural approaches. In many places around the world, I created informal extensions to existing architectures (e.g. museum architectures) or constructed independent temporary spaces. However, these informal architectures are always constructed in public space and they are always made from caution tape - suggesting ideas about safety zones and no-go areas and indicating aspects of exclusivity and inclusivity in public space. The works deal with the dual concept of performance and public space and time.