When I was one, my family and I moved to a small valley in southern Switzerland.
We arrived in a small village in the mountains where people did not have very open minds; they weren’t used to interacting with strangers. My mom, as a foreigner and artist, was an unusual character in their eyes.
This was especially apparent when people would visit our house—my home has always been a special and weird place from an outsider’s perspective. When I went to visit my classmates as a child, their houses often seemed impersonal and cold. In contrast, when someone entered our home, I felt that I would be laid bare—I feared that during their visit, they would uncover my most intimate secrets. I didn’t like this feeling. I wanted an anonymous home, reserved and remote. I wanted to fit in with everyone else. In a sense, this difference was the beginning of my “Villa Argentina” series.
“Villa Argentina” creates a parallel world within the space of the home. I wanted to enhance and enlighten the domestic space, a part of life that is often considered less important than the public one. The domestic sphere is often seen as a prison for women, but in this case, it’s rather a place for emancipation.
For us, home was—and is—a theater where we could freely express and shape our own identity, and yet the relationship is complex; in my images, I have tried to show how easy it is to hide a woman’s identity behind a socially constructed cliché. You can see this, for example, in the photo where my mother and I cover our faces with plates. I want to provoke the viewer to reflect and question his or her own perspective on the stereotypes and clichés imposed on women by society.
In terms of style, I am very influenced by Dutch painters and photographers. For this project in particular, I decided to deepen the representation of the Eastern world by researching related iconography. I was especially motivated by the the sexist and stereotyped representations of Eastern woman in nineteenth-century Western paintings. Using Edward Said’s twentieth-century inquiry into Orientalism as a guide to this phenomenon, I decided to question this portrayal. In “Odalisque with Pot,” my mother’s face is hidden by an object typically associated with household work. Through this image I wanted to draw attention to how women were represented in art by male artists, who have always provided an idealized image of them, and how society has therefore constructed ideas about the role women should play.
I have always sailed between two worlds, Switzerland and Iran—and yet my knowledge of the latter is only an echo, a ghost of a memory. Although my mother spent her childhood in Tehran, I never really knew the country, so I tried to capture some trace of it in my photographs. You can see this, for example, in the picture of the tree; the teapots symbolize Iran. For me, this picture represents a part of exile and migration.
In this work, I use the house—Villa Argentina—as a stage for my poetic universe and a backdrop for the poetic arrangements of objects I made for the camera. It was crucial for me to make this series in a domestic space. My early awareness of the uniquely intimate space of my home has allowed me to address wider issues like domesticity, my relationship to femininity, and certain aspects of migration.
Editors’ note: We first discovered this work at Circulation(s), a Paris-based festival that showcases young and emerging photographic talents from across Europe.