On Désirée Aphrodite Navab’s exhibition: She Speaks Greek Farsi
To speak of Desirée Aphrodite Navab’s work is to delve into the unfathomable ambit of human condition, the immemorial pursuit of an extradited identity from its Cartesian cogito in the midst of a crisis.
For if crisis is the ontological range of identity, the existential matrix of conciliations and conflicts, where the discrepancies between an ad hoc centrality, i.e. gender, race, religion, etc., versus a seemingly peripheral indifference and spontaneity of a nebulous phenomena are brought to the fore, then by crisis with regard to the self, there is implied a situatedness or worldliness of an estranged subject utterly dazzled at the juncture of diverging paths, and yet the only refuge where it can validate its existence.
This loss of orientation alongside an alienation associated with a discordant socio-political atmosphere on the one hand, and a sensual deficit patent in substitutions of direct experience with transmissions and simulations and thus of action with reaction, are indications of a widening rift between judging and doing, thinking and being.
The slant in Navab’s work therefore to restore this paling identity as it were and its reincarnation in the body caught in various guises and postures can be partly owed, on a personal level, to her uprooted status as an immigrant living in the United states with a Greco-Iranian root; and partly, on a more general level, to the primal role of the body as a social nexus.
Whether this is a question of relation or commentary of Navab’s work and thus herself, as she is also the subject of her work, to what appears as an inaccessible, impenetrable construct of a socio-political machine, and her presence seen as a coacervated bootleg, montaged into an alien assemblage, it is difficult to shrug off the ambivalence in which the very subject that bears witness to its corporeality, in spite of all attempts to designate itself, reveal and warrant its subjectivization, is rendered anonymous (Navab is never fully present in her work), thus a bas-relief by which there is evoked a mythic other, a presence other than the literal presence of the subject. In her own words: “(…) I have learned that art is part myth, part reality, part fiction, part truth. But how to explore this rich paradox in my own art?”
In her latest work dubbed She speaks Greek-Farsi, Navab pursues these notions with the insight of a shaman. The ground-figure relation, the traditional domain of context and its content is reversed, deterritorialized, reterritorialized.
In this series, the body cropped to surface as the background, is the intermediary through which the exigencies of identity are in turn permitted to surface as text. A double metaphor, since the signified thing is encoded in a language not necessarily native to the observer, something that is simultaneously revealed and concealed, a confession and a secret collapsed into one; hence also, an imparted sense of insecurity towards a suspicious meaning which can only be relative. This instability is further accentuated not only by the opposition of two distinct types of orthography, Farsi and Greek, which may or may not be saying the same thing, but also by the smudged bruise-like patina of the text on the skin.
Here as in Ed Ruscha’s Liquid Words series, except here, the letters do actually seem to articulate a word, the meaning is nevertheless diffused like a defunct ornament. In her shamanic stance, Navab seems to be revealing a truth that exceeds the eloquence of language. The body is not the romantic meeting place of text and texture, rather, it is the blunt collision site where our primordial ambitions are summoned back to the gravity of its terrestrial topos, the walking path of an Heideggerian corpus in search of an authentic existence, the hope to dwell poetically.