“History Found” is the title of the fourth episode of the collection “Revealing Realities” by Mehdi Moghim-Nejad which was exhibited in February 2012 at Mohsen Gallery. The Revealing Realities collection was the result of efforts by the artist in photomontage transformation technique and pictures created in the framework of images which do not easily reveal that they are artificial at first glance. In “History Found”, like the first, second, and third episodes, the artist has adopted a psychological approach towards the issues of common national and historical identity of human beings. If in the first episode of this collection, namely “The Scattered Dream of a Long Day,” the artist depicts a day hidden in his individual subconscious through travels and trips in the nature as a communal location, in the second episode, namely “Within the Oriental Winds” he crystallizes the fearful and scary aspects and nightmares of the atmospheres related to the Iranian history. In “History Found” history and the remaining parts of it, namely the parts which are constituents of the national identity and collective subconscious, appear as a form of a person’s dream, the only difference is that the artist in this collection is again more distant from the reality and approaches with a take beyond reality.
In this episode, in continuation of the previous episodes we are faced with a victory over the foggy and dreamlike atmosphere and photography in natural scenes, just like the dream of a person who dreams somewhere which belongs to an unspecified time and resembles a place he has already seen but is not any of those places. If we consider that the collective subconscious contains the legacy of history and its implications and the related meanings, the artist forms this dark and hidden side with a subjective and personal look and also by extracting parts from the heart of history. The gray images from an arid land and an unfertile desert in a foggy and abandoned condition while the recycled parts are generally ruined and destroyed from the historical-artistic works are the only pivotal subjects of the frame: From the statues dating back to the pre-Islam era in Iran to the Blue Mosque in Tabriz, the broken urn and the potteries from Neishabour, the mythological paintings of Shahnameh at the 4th Century AH, the miniatures related to the post-Islam era and the Qajar prince. The atmosphere created in this collection is highly apocalyptical, as if the world has come to the end and we are witnessing the last remains of it. We might only hear the distant howling of the wind within the absolute silence of the atmosphere. Despite the diversity in the historical elements of this collection, we should not forget that these elements do not introduce the particular names or different historical periods of art, as it is known, but the presence of national identity elements are symbolized as a whole in the realm of the collective conscious. These images, which are sometimes registered as photomontage on slates and desert land and sometimes stand as a minaret or part of an old monument or a statue, are considered the only colorful elements among the dominant gray atmosphere of these works. Although, in this collection the artist takes advantage of the photos he has taken on his trips to different corners of Iran in many years, the desert is intentionally de-identified by the dominance of the fog, as well as the black and white color, so attentions would be drawn to the tiling, designs and statues. It seems as if these symbols related to the national identity are the only bright points of the historical oblivion of a mind which are never thoroughly buried; these are the common past we drag everywhere with us, although in our subconscious memories.
Even thought, Moghim-Nejad’s perception in this collection is still tied to the history, “History Found” more than anything else raises a serious obsession about the medium of photography spontaneously and puts forth its ratio with reality. When faced with this collection, prior to any efforts to read the symbols this question occurs to us: “Is the picture before me a real one?” And when we realize that the answer is negative, the technique by which the photographer achieves such realism becomes thought-provoking. Therefore, meaning implications in the hierarchical system is subdued to the second degree of importance and the artist passes through the conduit of paradox in the process of getting to the meaning: He creates concepts through a modern involvement with the medium and technique along the conduit of “art for art.” He also does another seemingly paradoxical action and encodes the work of art ambivalently and in a two-fold way: It means he tries to accurately and “realistically” construct the destruction and ruins. He assembles the destruction, constructs it and injects it to the core of the picture in order to create his own concepts. The result is pictures which are formally possible and are in accordance with the logic of realism, but in fact they are real only in the realm of the artificial pictorial logic of the artist.
In his writings, Baudrillard says: “On the spot the virtual action takes place, it overcomes reality and then without any changes turns into its alternative.”
A similar process goes on in this collection; the elements assembled on the background of the picture enter the image’s framework from the outside boundaries of that photo, therefore, taking the picture’s “reality” into consideration, the alien elements are “virtual” and are created by construction. However, after they enter the picture and, of course, after placement with an accurate and powerful technique, they become part of the work as if they have been there for centuries and are considered an inseparable reality of the picture. Hence, the logic of picture with its specific “reality”, namely a dream-like reality, finally makes us convinced and the work in its development process transforms from “objectivity” to “subjectivity”: these pictures are considered opposing sides.
Photomontage, as a synthesizing technique, has resulted in a sort of irony, and equivocalness in the climax of its function in the works of Berlin Dadaists and Surrealism artists and has made radial criticism in the works of artists such as Hannah Hoch. It seems this technique forms at a time when the existing “reality” seems insufficient and the artist seeks to artificially construct a reality beyond the existing reality. Man Ray has said: “I paint something that I cannot take a photo of.” Photomontage is, in fact, an inter-disciplinary technique which pushes construction and painting composition into the world of photography and changes the reflection rules of photography without straightforwardly denying the specific aesthetics of this field. However, contrary to the common trend of photomontage in conveying the message, implications and other concepts of the type, Moghim-Nejad still leaves the audience with freedom to find the direction of meaning in a suspenseful manner. He never aims at over-symbolism or over-verbalization and although his involvement with the medium marks a modernist aspect, his works – contrary to many contemporary works – potentially yield to numerous interpretations. He sets off with his personal experience of photography during his trips around the country and his passion for that, and gets to creating concepts and at the end leaves photographic paintings for us. In spite of the fact his collection takes up photography with a historical-psychological approach, it is still more of photography than anything else.