Curator’s Note - Mona Sahi: What If I Knew?
Mona Sahi expresses human violence in a considerate manner; being mindful of the triggering impact of her art on her audience. In an age of being surrounded by graphic content in the news and social media, she filters out the inevitable ugliness of causing harm, without ignoring the real issues. Touching on difficult subject matters and themes, her art is genuinely brave. There is no distinction in her sensitivity to various forms of life. Mona lets her art be a reflection of a past visit to a slaughterhouse, or a reproduction of remnants of a crackdown on peaceful street protests in her home country Iran. Her work is about controlled, imprisoned, and violated bodies.
Mona Sahi’s stylistic choices in picturing human and animal bodies, and the appearance of the color red along with carefully desaturated blues and browns remind us of the works by Bahman Mohasses (1931-2010); a highly celebrated Iranian artist whose life and career continues to inspire generations despite years of censorship and physical elimination. Coming from the Gilan Province and both having grown up while breathing in the special air of the Caspian Sea, and later becoming artists in the Iranian diaspora are the shared lived experience between Mohasses and Sahi. However, Mona’s courageous compositions create a unique atmosphere in every piece. In her acrylic paintings, the brushstrokes are free-flowing. Her meticulous attention to detail stands out in her scratchboards; and her installation of ceramic spent bullet shells proves her intentionality in choosing the right medium to communicate her message and questions.
The exhibition title “What If I Knew?” refers to a moral dilemma sometimes discussed in popular culture, known as “The ethics of killing the baby Hitler”. As the frustration increases among the Iranians in their struggle for human rights, a question arises in social circles: “Could you kill one infant to save many lives?” Although no single answer is achieved, the discussion emphasizes the importance of reflecting on the dark sides of human actions. Specifically, the brutality of authority figures in Iran especially towards women and marginalized identities can not be ignored, or reduced to the actions of individuals.
In September 2022, Jina Mahsa Amini was murdered in a discriminatory system at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, language, and religion. Her death became a unifying force for various communities, her name traveled around the world and continues to empower people in a search for social justice. Mona Sahi invites the viewer to reconsider our numbness to unbearable suffering around the world. Her art acknowledges that the ideal of ending suffering may not be reachable, and yet we can move towards a better world. Her creations expose darkness, suggest potential for fundamental change, and initiate dialogue across borders.
I would like to express my gratitude to the professional staff and Board of Directors of Harcourt House Artist Run Centre for providing the space and support in such a historical moment when Iranian artists and curators in the diaspora employ their transformative tools for a liberating slogan: Women, Life, Freedom
Asal Andarzipour - May 2023
MA Capstone Project - History of Art, Design and Visual Culture | University of Alberta | 2020
"In an illustration from The Illustrated London News, Nāṣir al-Dīn Shāh of Persia appears standing in front of an aquarium full of cuttlefish. Two other men are standing behind him, one seems to be European and the other one is wearing a hat similar to the Shah’s. The picture caption suggests that he is feeding the marine creatures. Instead, his posture imitates the body form of the animal..."
MFA Thesis - Collaborative Design | Syracuse University | 2018
Abstract: This thesis explores the intersections between wisdom, happiness, and aesthetics through intergenerational experiences of older adults and younger individuals. Parallel to this, I have researched the virtues of Slow Cooking, Slow Design, and the Slow Movement to address wellness needs throughout our world. The original solutions explored for balancing these values focused on mindful activities. Case studies of relationships within families in comparison with alternative communities, such as Eco-villages, have guided my research and revealed meaningful efforts that engage individuals with shared environmental and moral values. The final idea that I envisioned is, in essence, a form of sensory experience design for people of different ages to benefit from values of sustainability, mindfulness, and slowness by sharing time with both tangible and intangible resources. The final design of this project is a table to be located in a third place that serves to gather people together to knit and learn from each other. This idea is intended to encourage people to slow down and experience knitting as a manifestation of both the mindfulness movement and sustainability.