Why lie? because the truth was never enough.

Why art? because after eight years in intensive psychotherapy, I needed new ways to call my bluff.

My hope is that in my son’s generation there will emerge a freedom that can move further away from the dead narratives: faith, identity and migration - and maybe even a situation where art is no longer relevant. In what time I have left, I wish to dedicate myself to the summation of these loose ends; to cleanse the bullshit which so often pretends to offer salvation. There is no aspect of my existence now without question; I have chosen to die whilst burning the flame of doubt - a disciple of Mollah Nasreddin, Diogenes and my own mother.

For the first time in my lifetime, I have found it possible to play with the fabrications that so vividly coloured my scattered sense of alienation. What I have to say from here on is for anyone who cares to read. My intention with this was to announce the Closing Down Sale of the Diaspora Pavilion; where EVERYTHING MUST GO! including me. I also wanted to thank everyone who has supported me; because none of it ever made any sense and so I ask for your mercy, instead of trying to reason with my situation; in the most polite sense I am seeking freedom from your imagination. And yet in writing this I am begging for attention, wanting a like, a reminder or a mention. After all I am only human and wish to forge connections. The violence of this world ripped away everything I ever loved and now my own heart beats against me, such that I can no longer receive love from my own family - blurring the lines between friend and enemy. All I know is that most nights Thanatos will visit me, and if I am lucky I will gain another day to survive. Survival being the only mode I’ve known and so to make it more bearable, I retreat into the inner-citadel of my mind, using concepts and mythologies to compensate for the lack of emotional relief. The outcome was (and often still is) the desire to be a machine.

I initially studied to be a doctor, but the successive bereavement of my parents, brother and others forced me to quit this dream and seek a more humble means of sustenance. I thus ended up working in community projects, whilst developing nascent aspects of an artistic practice. One of my first contemporary works was the establishment of a philosophy symposium in The Grove Fish Bar with a few close friends. We started from Plato and sought to see how far we could go. Some stopped after receiving a PhD in Kant, whilst others went on to Foucault via Shariati and Fanon; whereas my own soft spot lies somewhere between Kierkegaard and Freddie Mercury. Still, I continue to read blindly, for these were not my tradition - I have no such thing. I did not inherit the secular-leap of “sapere aude” but rather it ripped into me. Maybe the internet had something to do with it, but I could no longer forego the desire to be a machine. “In the last year (or nine) I’ve screamed at my creator, screamed at clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow.” But there was no answer, I had to establish my own rituals to address the lack of meaning; hence juicing lemons and filling bottles of drink became a daily meditation. And this is where MANNA came from, the Machine-Aided Neural Networking of Affect.

It’s the summer of 2018 now and I’m halfway through a two-year MA in Contemporary Photography; Practices and Philosophies at Central Saint Martins; where I am a student in the most obscure kind of fine-art, which I merely refer to as philosophy-with-props. I am selling all my previous work because I have no money and need to find a way to reach October, when I will receive my scholarship. My acceptance onto the MA follows my being selected to exhibit in the Diaspora Pavilion during last year’s Venice Biennale, where I presented my theory of neo-diaspora and was featured in a national BBC documentary. This was an extraordinarily traumatic gift for an emerging artist, especially as I was the only member of the show without any formal training. I’m surprised how far all these concepts have taken me. During my stay in Venice I told Khadija my story. She was my neighbour back in Grove and I watched her burn to death on June 14th as I ran barefoot into the street, trying to find a way into the tower, only to be pinned down by paramedics and administered treatment for shock. Khadija was an angel, and I have been blessed with others like her in my lifetime, mirrors who have helped to keep me alive in the aftermath of endless grief. I wouldn’t have art if it wasn’t for them, for my therapist and for cousin Othello who insisted I apply for the Pavilion. And now I have no choice but to face a new phase in which I must journey alone, into what feels like the ultimate unknown - my own heart. Because this machine-praxis can never give me love. I need a theoria that can go beyond the trauma and anxiety. In the saints I encountered spirits that draw meaning from above, whereas my manna has always fallen from below. And that is why the truth was never enough, I just learnt how to lie more beautifully through therapy and art. And now I cannot escape the paradox of having to believe in lies so that I can continue to lose my truth over and over again. In repeating this cycle of loss, I learnt how absurd it is to have faith in love; but it is by virtue of such absurdities that life can go on. And to everyone who has ever loved me, I will never forget you and the courage you put into me. All the good in my life comes from your presence and I pray that in my freedom I can find a better way to be present; to return to the present.

Abbas.

——

The above is my artist statement from the Diaspora Pavilion Closing Down Sale, which you can access here:
https://www.gumtree.com/p/arts-crafts/diaspora-pavilion-closing-down-sale-manna-2017-by-abbas-zahedi/1307823456