Carriageworks, Adelaide Film Festival, Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art and the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia in association with Sydney Film Festival and produced by Felix Media present the Sydney premiere of Hossein Valamanesh (in collaboration with Nassiem Valamanesh): CHAR SOO, 2015. Presented from 9 June – 17 July 2016, this video installation places viewers in a four-sided Iranian bazaar to contemplate movement, human interaction and the passing of time. Char Soo is a metaphor for Iran, a country which has been subject to invasion, religious and cultural interaction for centuries.
Hossein Valamanesh was born in Iran in 1949 before immigrating to Australia in 1973. His work combines cultural elements from both countries and, while deceptively simple, is imbued with cultural meanings and personal associations, playing on imagination, memory and emotion. With minimum manipulation of raw resources, he is able to create elegant works with maximum emotional impact while also asking philosophical questions about life and existence.
‘Char Soo’ means ‘four directions’ or ‘four sides’. In terms of a bazaar, the char soo is its main intersection. Made in 2015 in collaboration with his son Nassiem, Hossein Valamanesh’s video installation films all four directions of the intersection, and then places the audience at its centre. Watching four stationary camera shots, the viewer is immersed in the grand bazaar’s scenes and sounds. In the midst of colourful goods from myriad shops and the char soo’s traditional architecture of pointed arches, brick ceiling and a tiled pool, the viewer is able to follow the movement of people from screen to screen. The camera is fixed so as not to dictate what the viewer sees, but to simply observe as the artist did.
Char Soo’s sounds are ambient, and it has neither protagonists nor narration. It is filmed with a normal lens at eye level, without any intervention in the bazaar activity or any changes in the rhythm of its traffic. We seem to encounter a segment of life exactly as it is. However, Char Soo’s apparent dissolves, compression of time, inserts, and the fact that its subjects notice the cameras are constant self-referential reminders that it does not pretend to be a true-to-life presentation.
The absence of narrative, zooming, panning, tilting and voice-over make the notions of time and movement particularly prominent. The work encompasses different times, with real or physical time sensed through the movement of people, the sun’s changing light, and a constantly blinking neon sign. The contemporary era – another kind of time – is evident through the clothing and in technologies such as motorcycles, neon signs and mobile phones. Historical time is also visible in the two-hundred-year-old building. More importantly, the zeitgeist can be seen in the behaviour and interactions between people. Three simultaneous details – the ceiling, the pool, and shops – are inserted at points near the beginning, middle, and end to give a break to the long duration of time and movement.
Also part of the exhibition is Valamanesh’s work Passing Time (2011), a video within a black box that shows the artist’s hands and fingers continuously forming and reforming the infinity sign. There is no beginning or ending as the video plays on a continuous loop, reflecting again upon time and movement, allowing for a quiet place of contemplation and simplicity.
Hossein Valamanesh (in collaboration with Nassiem Valamanesh): CHAR SOO, 2015 is commissioned by Adelaide Film Festival, Carriageworks, Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, and the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia. Presented by Carriageworks in association with Sydney Film Festival. Produced by Felix Media.
Hossein Valamanesh (in collaboration with Nassiem Valamanesh): CHAR SOO, 2015 will be presented at Carriageworks from 9 June until 17 July 2016. The exhibition is free to public and will be open from 10am until 6pm every day.