Abbas Zahedi’s multi-disciplinary practice is concerned with community; bringing a background in social projects, like a philosophy symposium in a chip shop, to his dynamic artistic practice. His latest work explores abuse of power, personal histories and the shared narratives of migrant and marginalised communities.
For his Central Saint Martins MA degree show in 2019, Zahedi presented a work titled Dwelling: In This Space We Grieve, 2019. It was a fridge that held a green light and surface transducers playing sounds of lamentation and grief. By touching the fridge, the vibrations producing the sounds could be felt. The work was made in response to the death of Khadija Saye in the Grenfell Fire in 2017. Saye and Zahedi met when they were both chosen to create works for the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2017. They became friends and Saye encouraged Zahedi to apply to the Central Saint Martins Masters programme with her. The work is a testament to her absence. The fridge was a reference to early reports that the fire had broken out due to a faulty fridge, obfuscating the issue of the unsafe cladding which allowed the fire to spread so rapidly. The work is not only a personal tribute to a friend but an indictment of institutional failure.
Zahedi’s most recent installation was at the South London Gallery is titled How to Make a How from a Why?, 2020, now sadly closed due to Covid-19. During his residency at the South London Gallery in 2019, Zahedi explored the history of the former fire-station that houses the gallery and the surrounding area. He learnt about a fire at Sceaux Gardens Estate in 2009 which killed six people, partly due to exterior cladding panels. Zahedi was struck by the similarities with the Grenfell Fire. It also resonated with the site of the gallery leading him to consider exits through the architecture of the gallery.
The installation is a fire-sprinkler system that distributes rose-infused water into bowls and bottles placed across the gallery floor. The domestic vessels receive the offerings recalling the tradition of pouring liquids as a commemorative ritual in Iranian culture. It also references Zahedi’s family’s heritage as ceremonial drink makers in Iran. The viewer can participate by pumping the cistern, thus making their own offering and activating the space. Zahedi also collaborated with New York based duo Saint Abdullah to create a soundscape consisting of lamentation sounds including eulogies. The soundscape is played through surface transducers attached to the fire station doors highlighting a potential exit route. The installation questions the implications of an exit, asking who is able to exit and can it be an act of resistance?
Abbas Zahedi (b. 1984, London). Recent exhibitions include South London Gallery (2020); Belmacz Gallery, London (2019); Diaspora Pavillion, Venice (2017).