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Somaye Farhan

This is not a scarf


Artist statement

This is not a scarf is a response to decades of religious and systemic oppression faced by Iranian women, severely limiting their freedom of expression. The genesis of this installation was triggered by explicit crimes against women, including the tragic death of Mahsa Amini in Iran on September 20, 2022. At its heart, the installation features a pair of bronze-cast hands, adorned with a collection of headscarves generously donated by Montreal's Iranian diaspora, an act of offering that has become an integral part of the artwork. 

A closer look at the work reveals an imprint of the voices of the women who took part in a public intervention performance at Place des Arts in October 2022, where Somaye Farhan was accompanied by performance artist Elahe Moonesi. On the public stairs of Place des Arts, a pile of scarves was made available to spectators. Bystanders and passersby were invited to take one and attach it to the performers' bodies in any way they wished. A long piece of white cloth was carried down the stairs, on which spectators could write notes about their feelings regarding the recent events in Iran. The participants' contributions were then traced and screen-printed onto the scarves. 

The exhibition's resemblance to a scarf store raises questions about the headscarf's role as an object. In Iran, it symbolizes the 'protection' of women from the male gaze. However, closer scrutiny reveals the disturbing function projected onto this accessory. Cast in a weighty bronze alloy, the fabric binding the hands discloses its imposed function, highlighting a history of oppression and resistance beneath its aesthetic allure. 

Video credits: 

  • Performance Artists: Somaye Farhan and Elahe Moonesi 
  • Director of Photography: Soha Ebrahimzandi 
  • Photographers: Negar Jafari and David Wong 
  • Steadicam Operator: Sebastian Molnar 
  • Costume designer: Pantea Pezeshkan 
  • Production Assistants: Alan Gorgi and Louise Callier

Thanks to Kevin Cantin Landry, Louis-Charles Dionne, Surabhi Ghosh, Monique Deschamps, and Tatiana Koroleva who were next to me in every step of creating this work.

Documentation shot, prior installation of the work at La Central Power's front window. It showcases scarves hanging on the wall framing a projection of the artist performing and bronze casted hands displayed on a plinth. The hands are bound with a scarf.

Artist’s biography

Somaye Farhan is an Iranian/Canadian multidisciplinary artist, whose practice encompasses performance, video art, sculpture, and installations.  She is an upcoming graduate of Concordia’s Studio Arts program (April 2024). Farhan's artistic exploration delves into themes around womanhood, social and gender inequalities, feminism, migration, and identity. Additionally, she is deeply interested in examining social connections, seeking to understand the factors that bring humans closer together while dissolving the sense of Otherness perpetuated by our distorted perceptions of race, gender, and labels. Her creative journey has been shaped by direct immersion in diverse cultures during an extensive two-and-a-half-year bicycle expedition along the Silk Road and various Asian countries; her migration journey; and contemplation of the mind-body connection during extended meditation retreats in Southeast Asia. Her work has been exhibited at esteemed venues including Siddhartha Art Gallery in Kathmandu, Nepal, and La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse in Montréal, Quebec, among others.

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