NOW BASED IN BERLIN, HAKIMI-SCHÜLER CREATES ART THAT TALKS ABOUT HER CHILDHOOD MEMORIES THAT SAW BOTH THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION AND THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR
Mona Hakimi-Schüler was born in 1977, two years prior to Iran’s Islamic Revolution. With her bachelor’s degree in engineering from a university in Tehran, she pursued her interest in art in Germany before earning a master’s from the University of Osnabrück in 2006. Hakimi-Schüler is currently working as an independent artist in Berlin where she shares a studio with other fellow artists and has continually produced a good number of both group and solo exhibitions over the past several years.
She didn’t tell us specifically about her decision to move from Iran to Germany, but despite being in a different geographical and socio-political territory, the subject matter and style of her works revolve around Iran and her childhood memories that saw both the Islamic Revolution and the eight years of the Iraq-Iran War. These memories became the raw materials of several of her works such as Self-portraits (2007), a series of 12 paintings that express the extreme contradictions of female attire, from the simple traditional hijab to the fashionable pairing of the cloth with pink sunglasses or a spaghetti strap dress. For this particular series, the artist discusses the struggle in Iranian society to adjust to western culture with clothes being used as the medium. For Hakimi-Schüler, a change of clothes not only depicts the change of visuals caused by the constantly evolving trends but is also directly involved with the identity and ‘role’ of the women wearing them, with an interesting question being directed to her viewers, ‘among the 12 identities, which one is the real us?’
A CHANGE OF CLOTHES NOT ONLY DEPICTS THE CHANGE OF VISUALS CAUSED BY THE CONSTANTLY EVOLVING TRENDS BUT IS ALSO DIRECTLY INVOLVED WITH THE IDENTITY AND ‘ROLE’ OF THE WOMEN WEARING THEM
Her installation pieces are equally interesting. With Helden-taten (2009- 2010) and Dreaming the past (2012- 2013), the artist uses the walls of the exhibition room as the background for her sculptures installed nearby, creating both a physical setting and context to serve the presence of each of the principal characters of her show. The relationship between the paintings on the wall and the sculptures becomes the most obvious in Head in clouds (2014-2015). The work grants two different but ambiguously related visual experiences, one being the sculpture that appears to be walking into the set on the wall and the other being the way the painting itself gradually extends from the plane of the wall, creating the final outcome of a lion sculpture walking toward the viewers.
For the works in this particular category, the artist returns to the symbols of Iranian identity such as a lion, sun (whose presence dates back to 500 years ago and was found in Iran’s national flag prior to the Islamic Revolution) and a horse (the animal of transportation of Rostam, the hero in Shahnameh, Iran’s national epic). The display is done with a series of backgrounds that range from the Islamic flag and images to political incidents from the artist’s memories. Looking from a distance as an outsider, we’re not so certain what such superimposition of the old and new identities actually leads to or attempts to criticize. Hakimi-Schüler is currently developing a new approach toward storytelling, which she explains as a nonlinear arrangement of memories where the big picture is created from a collage of bits and pieces of her own recollection.
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA