The recent video work of Maryam Tafakory urges a renewed sensitivity in how we understand the poetic-political function of one of cinema’s fundamental elements: the montage. Taken from popular Iranian films, every fragment is a window into a world of domestic and psychological tensions, building a cumulative gravitas from what goes unseen, unsaid, forbidden. It is a generously citational and polyvocal method of engaging with the dependent relationship between censorship and invention in modern Iranian visual culture.
Informed by film-historical research and a lifelong intimacy with her source material, Tafakory’s work is situated among multiple overlapping formal lineages: the essay film, cinephile documentary, the online-native “video essay.” Irani Bag, 2021, hews closest to the third category, largely owing to its abundant onscreen annotations. As images of physical contact between genders were prohibited following the Iranian Revolution, everyday objects became imbued with symbolic significance. Tafakory compiles scenes in which handbags are used as “mediators of [the prohibition of] touch,” conduits for forms of contact narrowly evaded, whether tender or violent.
Nazarbazi, 2022, elaborates upon its more compact and academic predecessor with a dizzying carousel of distorted clips, accompanied by an ambitious, nondiegetic soundscape and onscreen text that peppers Tafakory’s writing with numerous artistic and philosophical influences. Where Irani Bag dictates, Nazarbazi disorients, abstracting its source images from any narrative context in the service of a suggestive “play of glances.” More experimental yet is the two-channel video She Stuttered, 2023, presented in LUX’s library alongside an artist-curated reading list. These poor images are manipulated to the extent that their glitches and crackles have a bluntness akin to a violent collision. The starkness of this brief work reveals the critical core of Tafakory’s practice, in which archival compilation suggests the political necessity of looking askance at both the everyday and its remediation in the moving image.