Edwynn Houk Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition of works by Sissi Farassat (Iranian, b. 1969), which marks the artist’s first one-person show in New York. The exhibition opens on Saturday, 5 January and continues through Saturday, 16 February 2013.
Encountering Farassat’s works, one quickly understands that hundreds of hours have been spent making each photograph into a hand-made object. In fact, as an artist working in photography, Farassat prefers to cancel out what seems to be most specific about the medium: the instantenousness of the image-making process and the purity of the photographic print. She physically repurposes the photographic print by taking needle and thread to the print, often stitching thousands of crystals, beads, or sequins onto it in a method more closely related to tapestry than photography.
Farassat's works are autobiographical, whether they begin as personal or found photographs, and are a combination of Persian and Viennese influences. Initially, she altered her old passports by embellishing them with sequins and beadwork, again repurposing the passport from its original use to the artist's canvas or jumping off point. Subsequent works made use of self-portraits, or rather, as Richard Watts calls them, “presentations of the self, with her close surroundings (family and friends)”. He writes further, “The enactments run the whole gamut of patriarchal images of women: from mimicry of the ‘whore’ to the over-affirmative ‘saint’. (…) control of one’s own image meets an elaborate iconography of the female, as deployed by advertising and the world of film and fashion” (Camera Austria, 103-104, 2008). More recent works are based on a cachet of slides that she found on a flea market, depicting an anonymous, presumably Austrian family posing for the camera in everyday and vacation settings. It is easy to realize how little separates these random family snapshots from the other performative and staged images of Farassat’s oeuvre.
Farassat tends to isolate the depicted persons through the application of her needling art, complicating for the viewer not only the distinction between the photograph and the object, but also and even more so the relationship between fore- and background, the revealed and the concealed, the subject and its context, the sign and the signified. Farassat challenges our gaze and seems to take pleasure in the ambivalence of her transformations. More recently, she radicalized this approach by outlining the figure through her stitchings while presenting only the backside of the photographic print to the viewer. We are left with a very minimal reference to photography as well as our own “experiences and projections”. Whatever side of the print, and by extension the side of her artistic practice, she presents to us, she always elevates photography to a three-dimensional object and imposes a prolonged process on this medium. In other words, her conceptual approach seems perfectly aligned with her process and vice versa.
Born in Teheran in 1969, Farassat moved with her family to Vienna in 1978. She has been working as a photographer since 1991 and attended the International Summer Academy conducted by Nan Goldin in 1993. She was a student of Friedl Kubelka at the School of Fine Arts Photography in Vienna (1993-94). Afterwards, she received a stipend for Paris from the Austrian Department for Education, Science and Art to realize her series Self Portrait Paris. Her work has been widely exhibited internationally, amongst others at Landesgalerie Linz, Museum of Vienna, National Gallery of Art Poland, Galerie Kashya Hildebrand in Zürich, the Fototriennale in Vienna, Fotogalerie Vienna, Hara Museum Tokyo and Fotohof Salzburg. Farassat’s work is included in a number of important private and institutional collections, such as the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, MAK - Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Kärnten, Collection Essl in Vienna, Collection of the City of Linz and Collection of the City of Vienna. She lives and works in Vienna, Austria.