A woman intent on smelling a rose. An image that is repeated seven times in the photo exhibition by Newsha Tavakolian, winner of the first Deloitte and Fondazione Deloitte Photo Grant. On view now Dec. 13 at Mudec Photo in Milan, the Iranian artist’s And They Laughed at Me project is a personal account of the collective history of Iran, a country marked by an oppressive political environment. The project was chosen from nineteen others, proposed by ten expert and international figures contacted by Deloitte and Denis Curti, curator and artistic director of the Grant.
The image of the woman sniffing the rose – the emblem of the project proposed by Renata Ferri – gradually disappears over the course of the exhibition. On the one hand the cancellation of identity, on the other a repressive system that emphasize the decision – making power of Iranian politics over the life of the community. «This scent I don’t want to forget,» this shot tells us, «I would like to return to such gestures and I hope that people around me can return to it.»
This repeated image dictates the rhythm of the exhibition itinerary that intersects Newsha Tavakolian‘s personal life and family memories with those of the community. The works – more than seventy archival images, unpublished shots and stills – are fragmentary, imperfect and unwanted, with the intention of showing “the raw and unfinished reality from which we cannot escape.” The path is enriched by handwritten descriptions by the artist, which contribute to a strong feeling of empathy in the viewer. The images are edited by Newsha, who often – as with the woman sniffing the rose – performs an erasure operation. The conceptual compositions reveal the drama of oppression but, at the same time, chart a path to freedom.
Newsha Tavokolian’s images become the voice of an oppressed people and, as the artist herself points out, are meant to let politicians know that we are watching them. “They laugh at me,” says the title of the project. Here “they” refers to politicians who often remain distant from the issues of the people. According to Newsha, the artist’s job is to “let politicians know that we are watching them, we have to be their watchers.”
The exhibition is open until January 28, 2024 with free admission. More information here.