Laleh Kazemi Veisari — Of Silica


During a stay in Vienna, Laleh Kazemi Veisari (b. 1983) turns into an ardent museum visitor. Several days and countless hours are spent in the city’s many museums. One of these days, Kazemi Veisari is in a room filled with ivory miniatures and other ethnographic objects that carry neither titles nor attributions. A feeling of ailment afflicts the artist. This is clearly some sort of history processing vis-à-vis the museum, but in what way? Toward the centre of the peculiar room a pair of divans are set. A feeling of ambivalence arises. The feeling manifolds and reproduces in both physical form and on an intuitive plane. The viewer herself is abruptly and unexpectedly observed by numerous masks and figures in display cases; looking back at the spectator as they lie in a huddle. All the while the divans rest directed towards the display cases. Acoustic feedback emerges in the room. By all means, lie down on the divan. See and listen to the objects that have been taken from every conceivable place on earth. Listen to the dispossessed. Has anyone listened to them? The museum is a regime. The objects tell a story of separation and disembodiment. Here the visitor is led to listen to the objects. Perhaps there is a listening practice that can go beyond the museum regime. But there is also a deprivation, a transfer, a looting; which makes them bereaved of their physicality. Their status as objects is dependent on their disappearance from elsewhere.


The exhibition title Of Silica, which plainly hints to the chemical element silica, leads the mind to the earth’s crust and its constitution. As Sand, silica is the primary constituent of glass which forms the transparent body of the display case. Abundantly used in museum vitrines, glass is enclosing and delimiting of its content. In the exhibition, the artist has worked with allochthon as a method. The word is formed from the Greek állos ἄλλος “different” and chthṓn χθών “of the earth”. Allochthon is a geological term that refers to rock and sediment that has been removed from the place where it was formed to a foreign environment through various events of tectonic movement. In an ethnographic context, the adjective form of the word also denotes individuals and societies with a non-resident social origin or descent. In her debut at Gallery Belenius, allochthonous displacements, consolidations and removals are leitmotifs in Laleh Kazemi Veisari’s installation.


In the gallery room at Ulrikagatan are two reconstructed divans. Allochthonous, taken out of their original context and set in an opposite fashion, these sculptural pieces are in dialogue with one another. The velvet fabric enhances the scenic and the theatrical; the constructed environment. A shrewd eye suddenly becomes aware of the reference to Vienna and the city’s essential role in the history of psychoanalysis. In this way, the divan is emblematic of the conversation. Or perhaps rather for the act of listening. What is it to listen? Listening is a facilitator for communication and conversation. To rest on the divan is to listen. The divan as reflection. It is a piece of furniture for conversation, for exchange and for discussion: the very image of the question. A prefiguration of listening. The exhibition also displays a suite of eight paintings entitled Manquent, which are abstractions of the philosopher Walter Benjamin’s (1892–1940) theses on the philosophy of history which he composed during his forced exile in Paris. The title of the work series, which roughly means “missing something” or “feeling the absence of someone”, alludes to the title of an index card with unwritten and unfinished fragments on light brown paper. The work with Walter Benjamin’s fragments is set on an abstract level and is covered not in words, but in colour. The text is evidently gone, transformed into a painting in what appears to be a symbolic palimpsest. An unwritten text is still a text. An empty surface is exposed where the text is located and from it the abstraction transpires. Kazemi Veisari has for some time immersed herself in archives linked to this specific work and studied it for a time in a lingering way that is characterized by a practice of introspection and retrospective. The exhibitions allochthonous theme of movement and removal is also conveyed in a painting depicting an empty pedestal. The pedestal may reasonably embody the contemporary discourse on the public monument and its transformation, the vacuous pedestals’ manifesto of negative spatiality that takes its starting point in the city and public space.


/Marcel Engdahl