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Payam Mofidi

‘Of Our Unbalanced Bodies Without Organ’ by Hafiz (14th Century)

A note on ‘Variations on an Instrument of a Human Anatomy’

Siamak Delzendeh Spring 2017

Video as a medium or what’s referred to as ‘Video Art’ is the product of tackling the ‘concept of time’ within a pseudo theoric thesis, during the past half a century. The story begins with the notion of ‘human as a sculpture’ and its main challenge is its ways of presentation outside of the constraints of short time limitations during which this ‘post avant-garde sculpture’ comes to life.[1]

The post avant-garde sculpture challenges the rigid kind of sculpture of the past through its existential and temporal characteristics. Trace of time gradually reveals itself on its pre solid and static state, but as long as it exists, it exists in its

[1]Human as sculpture’ was one of Joseph Beuys’s thesis in the early 1960s during which he actively engaged with the concept of ‘The Fluxus’ and artists engaged with this movement were converting their first experiences into video as the medium was being innovated. Human as sculpture is defined as an unbalanced and non-static sculpture that transforms in short intervals. Video as a medium was one of the best tools to record human as a sculpture in a short performance.

given form and state. Human as a sculpture, on the contrary, leaves a trace of itself on time and suddenly reveals itself in the eyes of the few, it reveals itself in several forms and states, nevertheless, others and posterity, in quest of finding a trace of it in history are in need of written and verbal narratives and witnesses, or, in need of a media as an evidence or a memory of that short manifestation in time.

On one hand, Video Art is the documentation of the existence of the post avant-garde sculpture and on the other hand, it denies the definition of its relation to time. Video Art lays the foundation of its own time rule and its main core connotations are formed based on this very rule.

In his multiple videos of the project “Variations on an Instrument of a Human Anatomy” Payam Mofidi, too, builds his time rule on several levels:

1.     The project’s documentary-like timing that squeezes in the stages of the scrambling installation of the sculpture on an oscillating pedestal in video’s limited time; the same method is also used to press longer performances in a shorter time span in the main video (the video in which the white sculpture swings on an unbalanced pedestal).

2.     Recording and presenting the white sculpture’s pendulum motion on an osculating pedestal: the beginning of this movement in high range and then its descent into a small range until its halt is Payam Mofidi’s main time rule in this video.

3.     Another level in the scope of time in this video is devoted to the representation of the passage of time and the change of day and night. The beginning and end of the pendulum motion of the sculpture happens in an almost day to night circle and we feel it through the sky’s changing of colour and movement of light and shadow depending on the location of the performance.

This state is better observed in the installation and presentation of the pendulum motion of the sculpture near Montreal in an open space. As the title of the project implies, Mofidi is experiencing variations of anatomic oscillation of the human symbol in different geographies: in Canada’s Montreal he has oscillated the pendulum of power in an open space, in a meadow where behind it railway line passes and rows of tall trees identify the grasslands. In Iran, in an old cellar by the name of ‘the new cellar’ (a place of religious pledge for childbearing during the Qajar Period) in the city of Saari, he has installed the gradually stopping oscillating pedestal with the torso of a blindfolded person in official suit in an authoritarian state.  What Payam Mofidi’s philosophical or geopolitical readings are from these two geographies depends on his personal interpretation and analysis, but, the understanding of the spatiality of the ‘Instrument of a Anatomy…’ by means of political geographical index and by project’s emphasis on the uniformity of the pendulum movement in all locations conveys a clear message against the notions of activist perceptions of power as a geopolitical order.

‘Variations on an Instrument of a Human Anatomy’ effectively endorses the essentialism of political power and at the same time reflects the revolt against it as meaningless.  Also, the method of making the sculpture through moulding (white resin) insists on the possibility of reproduction in different locations and geographies. However, the project is still in its infancy and is designed as an open process in order for it to be capable to be performed in different locations on the geographical map.

His emphasis on the duplicability is also visible in his choice of etching prints for presenting his drawings of the blindfolded head of the sculpture.  In this series, the decapitated head of the sculpture on a horizontal position is been duplicated via handprints on various backgrounds; urban landscape, industrial, rural, and in different real and imaginary geographical context. The horizontal situation of the head is reminiscent of Linda Nochlin’s analysis on the paintings of Theodore Gericault in the book [1]‘The Body in Pieces’: ‘the vertical plane is form’s notion of continuity and harmony …while, horizontal plane attributes to anti-sublimation and conveys materialism’. In fact, there exists sculptures similar to this project, usually installed on tall pillars and in the cities’ main squares in order for them to be the symbol of the glories of power.

[1] Linda Nochlin, ‘Body in Pieces’ Translated by Majid Akhgar, (Tehran; Herfeh Honarmand, 2011), page 40

Here however, not only the sculpture is blindfolded and lacks a clear identity, but standing stable vertically is also denied from it: not only the oscillating base is not giving it this possibility nor Mofidi’s etching prints in a vertical condition allow its representation in a humanistic and aesthetic condition. He is constantly duplicated in an unbalanced and unstable condition as a way to mock ‘human as a sculpture’ and also to present ‘body without organ’[1] outside of the timing merits of the medium of video

[1] ‘Body without Organ’, an ensemble body without any fundamental organization; a body with no organs; it is only a body and not an organism. Deleuze and Guattari define body without organ as a firm plane connecting non-homogeneous elements together.

The pendulum motion of this sculpture and ultimately its halt can perhaps obviate the defects of the medium of video and its definition of its relation to time: The body without organ of this anatomic instrument surpasses the idea of  ‘human as a sculpture’ and is a satirical proposal on the concept of ‘social

[1] Linda Nochlin, ‘Body in Pieces’ Translated by Majid Akhgar, (Tehran; Herfeh Honarmand, 2011), page 40

[1] ‘Body without Organ’, an ensemble body without any fundamental organization; a body with no organs; it is only a body and not an organism. Deleuze and Guattari define body without organ as a firm plane connecting non-homogeneous elements together.

sculpture’ - Joseph Beuys’ next thesis.  Since “social sculpture” is a consequence of the harmonic motion of all the organs of society, whilst swinging, it appears to deny linear sequence of time; as a result there exists only one particular sculpture in a while and in every moment– embodiment of each position of the pendulum swinging: the ideal organization is nothing but a body without organ.