“Therefore I ordered them to extract the cuspid of the crickets so I extracted confessions out of them that how many times they had licked the nation’s luminaries? My hands do not reach my feet unless I feel I’m a tomato and in the living room, I gave words to Zahhak that I would become a vegetarian. And I signed a peace treaty with the 16 grasshoppers that had attacked the farms in the south so they would all move along the economic development plan, right in the direction of the oil pipelines.” Mostafa Choub-Tarash
The above excerpt is the title of the recent exhibition by Mostafa Choub-Tarash. The artworks were exhibited in February 2012 at the E’temad Gallery. The title of the exhibition shows this collection is different: By placing one of his short stories instead of the title of his work, the artist has taken a satirical look at the story of Zahhak as a mythological icon. His approach towards history and mythology in the realm of writing and visual art is a practical example of “New Historicism” approach towards history and literature: reading history, art and literature not based on the social context of the time the work was created, but according to the necessities of the readers’ and critics’ time.
In this collection, Choub-Tarash goes through history anew. Reviewing familiar narratives and allegories which are registered on the collective mind of a nation and playfully adopting an ambivalent approach towards icons and historical myths, put the post-modern artist at the position of a theoretician who deconstructs myths and renders a different, and most-of-the-time ambivalent and satirical reading of the past works by tampering with their aura of “originality.” This sometimes appears through the childish action of drawing mustache on the portrait of Mona Lisa – as a symbol of the golden age in the history of art and intellectualism – and sometimes in the form of copying the originality of a famous work and deconstructing the work of art.
Deconstruction in this collection takes place by applying minor changes to the pictures from the history of art. Pictures which contain events that form the collective unconscious of people and form their wide system of values, and beliefs. In here, the familiar pictures of books on the history of art or lithographic images with gray acrylic and the usual inexperienced style of the artist are drawn on the canvass, and the artist tries to unify the whole work as a historical myth not by emphasizing on the narrative or a certain character but by implementing only one color. Hence, the variety of the images should not act as an obstacle to reading the entire collection.
There are images of King Shapur the First’s victory over the Roman Empire, the romantic narrative of Homay and Homayoun, Rostam’s battle with the Akvan Demon and the King Sultan Hossein Safavi and the Zahhak monarchy. However, the post-modern take on the work of art with the present and past is by no means straightforward and rule-governed as it is expected, but history turns into a basis to reveal internal conflicts and ironies and incorporates with the present time to form an ironic situation. In this collection satire and destruction appear as colorful designs which are sprayed or painted onto the work like a graffiti in a destructive, speedy and childish way. The past and future meet each other in an ironic fashion, Zahhak goes vegetarian and Rostam has a bouquet of flower in his hand instead of dagger and the ceremony of Awarding Divine Splendor turns into drawing pistols on each other. Therefore, the artist makes a two- or multi-fold encoding of all the works: paintings as a sublime art and the artist’s hand-drawn paintings on the piece of art as an ornament.
Reviewing and changing the stories and historical myths from Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood to Hamlet and toppling the hero to an anti-hero and vice versa, is the process of tampering with narratives which are deeply rooted in the realm of history, history of art and folkloric stories and allegories and their implications and results are well-seated in the collective beliefs and have turned into a part of culture and value system of people. The playfulness and destruction is in fact part of revealing relativity and conflict at the core of accepted certainties. A process which introduces post-modern art as a representative of “doxa” art and counter-nature-oriented, in a way presenting one of the numerous macro-narratives of an event instead of only a micro-narrative is acceptable. Rostam is an example of chivalry and athletics and has turned into a modern Don Juan and attacks the Akvan Demon – who has now transformed into a ridiculous beauty – with a bouquet of flower instead of his dagger. King Soleiman is hanged in the festival of musicians and the fable of Homay and Homayoun changes into a flashy modern view of flying hearts. Therefore the borders defined between concepts such as being honorable and ridiculous, divinity and sublimity and anger, platonic love and backstreet songs shatters under the pretext of tampering with icons of history of art. The plural and conflicting situation, which formed the basis for position of human beings in the post-modern and contemporary era, is clearly evident in these works. A position in which the narratives of “true”, “real” and “original” are nothing but imagination and illusion. A situation which is well-defined in the following quotation by Baudrillard:
“Belief in truth… is the weak point of perception and common sense… really no one believes in reality… our belief in reality and its proof is shameful. Truth is something to be sneered at. There may be some people who dream of a culture in which they laughs upon hearing “this is true, this is real”… pretentions have turned into realities! … Now, the act of pretending puts a lid not on the reality but the point that there is nothing, or in other words, on the continuation of absurdity.”