OCAD University (Toronto, ON)
To Defy: On Resistance and Resilience is a body of work inspired by the artist’s personal experience of war, violence and censorship. Through writing, printmaking, multimedia and sculpture, Tabesh explores modes of storytelling in which narrative is embedded into the artwork. By sharing his memories from a child’s point of view, Tabesh conveys these stories in a deeply human and universal language, avoiding the cliché of shock and horrors of war on one hand, and the abstract notion of war far away on the other hand.
As an artist my practice is mainly focused on the human condition. Growing up in Iran, I have memories from mass arrests of political activists to widespread imprisonments and executions with no fair trial, from my friends volunteering to go to war as child soldiers to living through constant bombing of my hometown. The Orwellian censorship imposed on my generation and the constant religious propaganda throughout my early education has made me a vigilant observer of the intimate moments between horror and humor. For the Fresh Paint 2020 exhibition, I have considered the following three distinct yet interconnected artworks.
Writing, Printmaking. The current “edition” of The Book of Fading Memories consists of twelve memories as part of a portfolio concept. Each turn of the page takes the reader/viewer to a single story narrated in two parallel viewpoints. On the left, a text conveys the way I see the event today. On the opposite page, an image displays my perspective at the time. In some cases, the image is created by tracing or pointillism, while in others, the image follows a bande dessinée style. The booklet of the exhibition plays a critical role in connecting the stories: it mirrors the artworks, acting both as the pamphlet of the show and a multiple of the original pieces.
Sound Installation. In this installation, a number of people pray in different languages, asking for safety of their family and loved ones. The concept is based on my childhood experience: During the war, my neighbors – some Christians and some Muslims – sheltered under a single staircase and prayed for safety of their families, each in their language and to their own gods. The piece is about two minutes long, which roughly is the length of one round of bombing. Each sound channel is dedicated to one person’s voice.
Sculpture. Even though in self-exile, I still feel the pressure of censorship on me and my family. In this series, I am using a coded and encrypted visual language to circumvent censorship. In Where I come from, I have altered my bodily impressions by not only scaling, but by going back and forth from digital to analog. Each body cast is 3D scanned, 3D printed, and finally casted in bronze. Although bodily and erotic, these objects resemble topographical maps as well. The title is an attempt to create the question of one’s origin, whether it is the land or the body.
Mohammad Tabesh is an engineer turned artist residing and working in Toronto. His practice is focused on the human condition, art of resistance and art and social change. Mohammad completed his BFA in sculpture and installation at the OCAD University in 2020.