Burrard Arts Foundation presents IT IS MEANT TO BE READ by Iranian-Canadian artist Aileen Bahmanipour. The exhibition features new installation and paper works resulting from the artist’s winter residency.
Bahmanipour’s practice is informed by lived experience of censorship in Iran and explores contemporary forms of Iconoclasm—a recurring historical impulse to break or destroy images. IT IS MEANT TO BE READ contemplates issues of regulation and information access, digesting two categories of source material.
The first is a collection of diagrammatic imagery, found online and selected for its tendency to bypass internet filters put in place by the Government of Iran. We see disjointed images of cylinders and conveyor belts, workers operating large machinery cranks, egg-like formations in mid-break, or cross-sectional views of various mechanical systems, to name a few. By painstakingly removing the negative spaces in these printed images and stacking them in transparent folders, Bahmanipour conflates figure and ground, creating new visual forms. The viewer is invited to flip through the collection, gathered inside a modified filing cabinet that has been made see-through with the removal of its exterior panels. A swirling cluster of drawings made with glass paint on acetate extends upward behind the cabinet and adheres to the gallery’s overhead ductwork. Layered like the unfixed folder collages, these meticulous illustrations are further filtered through Bahmanipour’s perception, fusing repeating elements into new designs that are more bodily than their paper counterparts. From the lower drawer of the cabinet, plastic tubing administers a slow drip of anti-archival, acidic ink that will, over time, puddle on the acetate and mar parts of its imagery.
A second series of works, through repetition and papermaking, studies an English translation of The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Organized by material strategy, IT IS MEANT TO BE READ (2022) is mounted to the walls on either side of the gallery. One approach features portions of the document, clipped into singular lines and embedded into handmade letter-sized sheets. The pages are double-sided and extend outward, allowing the front and back of each to be seen. Though fragmented, knotted or rearranged, they offer direct glimpses into the language of their source. Across the gallery and more cryptic, 55 pages record the fingertip movements that were made in still-wet fibers of handmade paper pulp, with each imprint attributed to Bahmanipour as she typed the constitution into the keypad of her underlying tablet computer.
As the exhibition’s title asserts, IT IS MEANT TO BE READ invites active interpretation. To achieve suitable understanding, however, the works suggest the viewer seek out supplementary readings beyond these gallery walls.
Aileen Bahmanipour acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for this project.