Amak Mahmoodian’s Zanjir (Translation: “chain”) presents a body of photographs that cross great distances – reaching through history to bring the earliest images of Iranian photography into the present, across oceans to invite Mahmoodian’s family and friends; and across the border between life and death.
In 2004, Mahmoodian visited the Golestan museum and undertook an archival research project lasting two years. The Golestan Archives are located in central Tehran, which was once a home for Qajars, the kings’ wives, Harem women, and their relatives. Mahmoodian uses selected historical photographs as masks, asking her loved ones to hold the prints in front of them, framing her own kingdom and centering the sorrow of separation she feels for them as she lives and works three thousand miles away.
in front of him
The power that keeps her still
is not inward
sitting on a chair
clipped to her scarf.
Amak Mahmoodian, excerpt from Zanjir
The images will be surrounded by fragments of an imagined conversation – between Amak, and Princess Taj al-Saltanah, an Iranian princess who lived at the end of the 19th century. Considered a trailblazer for women’s rights in 19th century Iran, she defied her family and government and advocated for equality and democracy. In al-Saltanah, Mahmoodian has found a mirror, and in each other, these women find the opportunity to be vulnerable; ruminating on their individual experiences of family, distance, powerlessness, yearning, and hope.
Amak Mahmoodian (b. 1980) is a photographer born in Shiraz and lives in Bristol, UK. In 2015, Mahmoodian completed a practice-based doctorate in photography at the University of South Wales, having previously studied at the Art University of Tehran. The artist’s work questions Western notions of identity, expressing personal stories that pertain to wider social issues which draw on her experiences in the Middle East, Asia and the West. Her previous project, Shenasnameh, has been widely exhibited internationally and the accompanying artist photobook won many awards and critical acclaim in publications as diverse as Time Magazine, Foam Magazine, and the Guardian.
Curated by Alejandro Acin (ICVL) and Kieran Swann (Head of Programme, Arnolfini).
Alejandro Acin is an art-director, designer and educator based in Bristol (United Kingdom). After working for more than five years in an archival institution, his practice is orientated to investigate contemporary uses of visual archives. Through the creation, contestation and obliteration of archival material; his work responds to theoretical debates that surround the construction and obliteration of collective memory. To expand the understanding of publishing he uses photography, film, collaborative strategies, site-specific installations, publications and digital platforms to convey and disseminate his projects.
Acín is also founder director of IC Visual Lab, an artist-led organization based in Bristol (UK) that produces and supports contemporary photography across audiences. In 2016, he founded ICVL Studio where he collaborates with other artists and organizations as a designer and art director in printed and digital publishing projects and exhibitions. His publications have been internationally recognised by outlets like TIME Magazine, PDN Online, Photoworks, FOAM, British Journal of Photography or Aesthetica Magazine and he has art directed exhibitions in various international festivals and institutions such as Brighton Photo Biennial, Getxo Photo or QUAD gallery.
Work within Zanjir was originally commissioned by Ffotogallery.