Rose & STEMM

Rose & STEMM is an audio-visual performance series initiated in room F304, Kings Cross, London, 2019. The work explores how traditional grieving rites can be applied upon a contemporary gallery space, as a way of laying to rest the analytic and categorical biases, which are so often used to exclude diasporic bodies of flesh and praxis. It has since been adapted to various contexts and continues to evolve in response to different exhibition and performance commissions.

Selected editions include:

Guest Projects, London, 2019

Excerpt from Rose & STEMM:

I have been instructed to speak less of my past, preferably to do away with it, especially when it comes to practice. At first I was excited by the freedom this offered; to be civilised, instead of just ‘cultured’. I felt that I could now sit within a canon of formalistic forms and formulations. A place in which identity no longer functions. Because my past is heavy, it is too much of a burden, people can’t relate to its particularities, the punctum of its weight.

They cannot see why I would choose to wash the walls and floor of a gallery with rose water. I mean if I had chosen to work with piss, then they could say: “Ah Yes! We have an entire tradition of thisssss… from Diogenes to Serrano… not forgetting all the Pollocks and Brian Enos.” But they cannot relate, to a past in which I washed the dead corpse of my younger brother with an infusion of myrrh and rose water. A coming of age ritual, that was intended to make me a man, because there was no time to be a feminine orphan boy child.

I have been told that speaking of the past is bad form, improper etiquette, so I speak of lemons instead. I speak of how Deleuze’s refrain was borne out of Nietzsche’s eternal return, a cyclical expanse of time, in which the past is forever relived. I even made my own version, the #LiveArchive: about how technology works to canonise and slice forward data, into networked streams of blah blah… but still, my past is a problem, let’s speak of Fluxus, Kaprow and Duchamp instead:

Because my past is rose and stem – bloody and red
Passed down by cinnamon tongues
that would shoot for the sun as they watched
vultures descend upon their dead

I come from all manners of fuck and dread.
From pieces of earth that swallowed everything I ever loved

so I beg you… to tread gently
and next time you speak to the ground
please ask, if it remembers me.

An Alternative Map of the Universe is a collaborative effort to bring together artists who use mapping as a way of responding to current realities or imagining new ones for the future.

Spike Island, Bristol, 2019

Performance of Rose and STEMM for AMRA, Spike Island & Qu Junktions, 2019. Photo: Polly Staple.

Donned in a floral, floor length robe Abbas Zahedi weaved his way through the crowd spritzing rose water. His presence was mighty, he manipulated the space and throughout his performance he created interventions; pockets of people gathered around him whilst he was chanting and reaching down to stroke the concrete floor. The backdrop had projections of flowers in bloom whilst the backing track was weighted with thumping bass and swirling helicopter-like sound effects. The soundtrack then built up to what I can only describe as industrial sound effects, it felt as though someone was using a disc cutter right next to me.It was piercing and sharp and the perfect interlude to Abbas’s spoken word, which ultimately, was the highlight of the night.

Speaking of identity, culture and the reason why he chose rose water and not urine – there was even a dig at Jackson Pollock which garnered a few laughs – Abbas delivered a sombre yet rich performance. Fluctuating between spoken word and MC’ing, his voice was now the backing track and the main focal point. Sharp intakes of breath and heavy stresses on the letter ‘K’ interrupted the flow which left an imprint on me long after I’d left.

Review by Amy Grace, Bristol24/7, November 2019

Tulse Hill, London, 2019