“To archive is to gather together signs and to move them from a private realm to a public one with the purpose of holding on to the source material of memory,” remarked the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) in Archive Fever (1995), his extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time and technology. The words are put into practice by Iran-born London-based artist Samin Ahmadzadeh, who creates collages out of her family’s memorabilia. Her objective is to make the personal and intimate photographic collections transcend the memorial function and open them for further social, cultural and historical analysis and interpretations. Her project of preservation is similar to that of the Croatian artist Martina Grlić (see “History and Memory” from October 5, 2016).
Samin, who is also involved in installation and printmaking, obtained a BA in Photography from Azad University in Tehran. This was followed by an MA in Photography at Central Saint Martins. She was shortlisted for the Best Original Still Award at the Guardian Witness Awards. As of now, her works have been exhibited in the UK, Iran and Spain. Places include the Saatchi Gallery, The Dot Project Gallery, 5th Base Gallery and Espacio Gallery. She participated in The Culture of Peace Biennale 2 in Tehran recently.
Samin’s work involves the shredding and weaving together of copies of old photographs. The past appears in a fragmented visual style, much like how we have it stored in our minds. The final artistic products are multi-layered images, each containing a mix of several figures and stories, gently conveying to us the message that one individual is really a composite of many influences and experiences.
Samin is inspired by a range of artists and theorists. She loves the self-portraits of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of everyday life captured by the American photographer William Eggleston (born 1939). The idea of “history being read backwards from the ruins, stories being reconstructed from traces of objects” as proposed by the German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) [see Illuminations: Essays and Reflections] and the notion of “punctum – a vestige of times gone by that may hold the gaze and arouse emotions” as explored by the French scholar Roland Barthes (1915-1980) [see Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography] have fueled Samin’s artistry to a great extent. As she works from day to day, she is energised by the words of Andy Warhol (1928-1987), who said: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.’’
Samin has been commissioned by the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery to produce a large installation consisting of 500 photoweaving circles which will be part of a show running there from May to September next year. “The installation will be made from a mixture of circles containing my own family archive and that of Tim Andrews,” she explains. “Tim Andrews is from the UK and currently lives in Brighton. He was interested in my work and hoped for a collaboration between us. He has given me access to his amazing records. What I really love is the fact that both archives come from around the exact same period of time, but from two different sides of the world, the West and the East. In today’s world, with countries closing their borders and people becoming more and more divided, I see this work as a presentation of how we are all the same, and live the same life, no matter which part of the world we come from.”
Images used with permission.