Review: Parastu Gharabaghi. open the door close the window @ Kevin Space, Vienna by Julius Pristauz

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti


Parastu Gharabaghi, yadesh bekheir, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

The shop front area of Kevin Space is already well equipped with sporadic sitting possibilities. However, Parastu Gharabaghi decided to emphasize even more on this aspect of where to eventually position one’s body in the exhibition.

When entering, an object on the threshold of furniture and a science-fiction space station somewhat looking like an intergalactic insect with too many legs sticking irregularly out of its body or a mutated muscle bench for work-outs, awaits you. Static but at the same time ready for encounters it is unclear whether the round centerpiece is meant for sitting, laying, working or relaxing on it. Undeniably it was positioned there to impose further questions and following (inter-)actions.

Instead of watching the scene from the furthest out perspective, the visitor is invited to reside in the middle of the bright main room, in the exact center. When assuming position on the object – which is allowed to use – one’s view is playfully, subtly and therefore almost automatically directed towards what is around the gallery, through the huge glass windows, facing the outside. A moment in which the prevailing situation on the street and the square in front gains relevance. Watching the place for a moment, there is a strong notion of observation that will wiggle through the entire show. Not only in terms of what the artist, obviously ‘observed’ and contextualized through her presented works, more so it plays with the way the user interacts with these manifestations in a second entity. Did you take the time to sit and watch what happens outside, to investigate what the outside even looks like? Did you realize that the color the whole building is painted in was resembled within the show?
It almost seems like a game with the attention and concentration of the visitors is being played here.
A sculpture on the floor – a ball and a menial ellipse with the same pattern painted on it – is quickly unmasked as a direct juxtaposition of a ready-made and the quote of such. In a gamble of shifting viewpoints, the visitor turns into a bit-part player engaging with a passive set-up of sculptures which is unsure of whether it even wants to be activated. Through the presence of a body around or on them, the objects might just turn into a tool, leaving them dependent on human interaction, of executed choreographed social scenarios.

This continuous connection of presence and absence, inside and outside, original and replica, is further continued within Abesard (2019), a video piece found on a tiny display, hidden on the floor behind the attention-seeking oval bench. The tablet-sized screen shows sober dazzling scenes of an abandoned swimming pool. The clean water is long gone, replaced by what is left of heavy rains and thrusting weeds that were let doing what nature instructed them to. Left outside alone, without caretakers it now develops a life of its own, mimicking its once serving purpose.

On the way to the backroom, a delicate sculpture with threaded glass beads is hanging from the corner of the ceiling. With its appearance resembling a wind chime or a ridiculously undersized curtain, one can’t help but wonder if it actually would clink and jingle if somebody would indeed open the door and close the window, if a draft of wind could move it and the outside finally came in, entered, intervened. The title of the exhibition proves itself as crucial in order to comprehend the prevailing setting. Gharabaghi is commenting on a state of transit, the permeability as well as exchangeability of our regular social situations as well as identities. Even the appropriation and construction of such might be at question as suggested through the inclusion of the work Dressing right (2019) by artist Fabian Leitgeb which lingers high up on the pink wall of the second room of her own solo presentation.

Inevitably, the social value and heritage of (art) objects and other innovations that serve humankind are being mirrored and perhaps even mocked. The ‘rules’ of how to encounter traditional associations with the presented images are easily abolished and transformed into confusion. When making use of a definition of tradition that acknowledges the fact that not only doctrines but rituals, symbols and especially objects could be bequeathed to posterity and called tradition, we believe that action is not part of such (tradition).[1] Gharabaghi’s sculptures emphasize perfectly on that thought. There is something weirdly traditional yet strange about them that she wittily utilizes to bewitch the viewer, turning the temporary guest into a willing actor, a protagonist of equal importance and pettiness.

The phase of positioning the body in relation to the offered spatial elements remains relentless while walking through the painted back room. With table-like bar elements poking out of the walls, again reminding of significant, almost key places, of social interaction like bars or kitchens, it finally is a sound piece produced in collaboration with Demian Kern that shapes and animates the impressions experienced in that area. Soothing melodies of burbling water, a piano and frogs sound out the space. Echoing voices, swimming pool season noises and the distorted recording of a woman’s voice reading cocktail recipes are dreamfully mixed with (electronic) music elements that could be best located somewhere on the verge between ambient and jazz. It is an 3-hour assemblage with long breaks of quietness in-between, looping for the time of the opening hours.

With alternation, unbearable silence, quiet tones, and sudden intermezzos we find back to the matter of presence and absence, something that connects the displayed objects, video as well as the sound. Many indications are given that this show lies indeed within the frame of an investigation of these terms and their spatial interpretation. It evokes the question of when your eyes are really open. It codes information and simultaneously asks what we pay attention to and subsequently process while carelessly walking down our daily paths. Low-key spiritual and with an inherited touch of feng-shui it comments on the voidance, transition and translation of a space choreographing its trespassing bodies into a reflection of their surroundings.

It is a foreign item that greets you and it is the same commodity – however seeming way more familiar now – that watches you leave after this experience of analog fiction[2]. Having engaged in this game of flux and fluctuation, a strong sensation possibly felt with almost all senses, we finally realize that we were just turned into an entity, exiting, making way for new ones to enter, giving way for new symbiosis, for new, individual and differently charged social situations.

Parastu Gharabaghi (born 1987 in Vienna) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna with Ashley Hans Scheirl and Julian Göthe, as well as at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London.

[1] James Alexander, A Systematic Theory of Tradition, Journal of the philosophy of history 10 (2016)

[2] as opposed to “gallery fiction”, a term describing the phenomena and effects of the digital reproductions of art, coined by Natalya Serkova in her eponymous essay published in 2019 https://www.ofluxo.net/gallery-fiction-by-natalya-serkova/


Parastu Gharabaghi, Abesard, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, Untitled, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Fabian Leitgeb, Dressing right, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti

Parastu Gharabaghi, open the door close the window, installation view, Kevin Space 2019, Photo: Maximilian Anelli-Monti