• NOTES ON HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR PLANTS

    Text by Saira Ansari

     

  • Sophia Al Maria
  • I gravitate towards things anchored high up in the sky or floating gently in the ground beneath my feet. For in-between is the present  of which, I think, we have enough. Above me is memory and below history [perhaps the speech of a sentimental fool] — treasures encrusted with dirt, made shiny with the scratch of a thumbnail and the flick of a wet tongue. 

     

    2013: Moving to Dubai inspired a litany of counsels from people back home who were shocked by my apparent submission to concrete. What grows there, they cried...

                   ...Over time, I have learnt what grows here; more importantly, what I can’t kill. And, I’ve come back full circle to experience gardening as Gardening — as expression, intent, meditation, deliverance. 

     

    The workmanship of nurturing plant life in recycled air //

    the sorcery of keeping them alive //

    the enchantment of their flower offerings and the occasional mushrooms //

    the black magic of their larger than life personalities //

    the affront of their death.

     

    2021: Now, as if manifested, they are all around me: in my house, my email and my garbage; in the homes of my partner and our friends; in offices, sidewalks and cultural programming. And after an evening of talking about gardens in Lahore, I accept the invitation to share thoughts on the offerings of a few artists that I once worked with. 

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  • Abbas Akhavan
  • What is there to trace in Abbas’ work when so much of it is meant to age with time and change from when you first see it? No matter how the work turns, its first impression resides in memory for perpetuity. 

     

    You can find many listings of fake Monstera plants on Amazon. One states: 6 Pack Artificial Palm Plants Leaves Faux Turtle Leaf Fake Tropical Large Palm Tree Leaves Imitation Leaf Artificial Plants for Home Kitchen Party Flowers Arrangement Wedding Decoration. It’s a lot to expect from just 6 stems. 

     

    2015: A mound of dirt/sand; a flattened pile of exotic plants, palm fronds and flowers; a small white and baby blue bracket fan, and a wind chime. If you stood there, silently, you heard and smelled Study for a Curtain better than you could read it. The decaying green patch was sprayed with water every day and the fresh, moist, summer evening smell lingered in the air, pushed lazily back and forth by the fan and the incessant air-conditioning. We couldn’t encapsulate the experience in a didactic wall label because so much of it happened in alchemy.

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  • Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
  • 1986: Monir first started with drawing flowers. By the mid-70s, she had reduced the language to geometrical studies called Variation on a Hexagon. I wonder what she was thinking when, in the mid-80s, she returned to her botanical drawings. I was a toddler and had just moved to Pakistan. Monir was still in New York, growing a forest in her apartment terrace. ‘I was a very good gardener. I loved gardening, really.’ (Cosmic Geometry, 2011). 

     

    I’m pulled to her drawings of the Nargis, a highly fragrant flower. From my memory: left indoors on a warm, late-spring afternoon, in a house that does not/will never have central air-conditioning, the intoxicating perfume will travel across rooms and space and time. Nargis means love and spring and death, all three signs of life. 

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  • Amir H. Fallah
  • 2007: The (Venice Beach/) Toiling Male Gardener. Imagine, if you will, a tub of dark, moist earth standing in the scorching sun, waiting for you to plant a benign cactus cutting. As your fingers gently push into the coolness of the soil, you wonder if you should push up your sleeves. But you can’t stop and you sink in, enveloped entirely in the darkness. I think of Amir’s tales of diaspora memory and they morph in my head into one of his makeshift forts, piled with carpets, flowers and vases, and everything his parents could pack in to make a Home. 

     

    As I close in on his paintings, I am drawn to the luminous globules floating between the flora. When circular, they look like the moon or planets; when irregular, I imagine they are floating pockets of landfill. The hyper-coloured renditions remind me that over 12 percent of people dream in black and white.

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  • Pouran Jinchi
  • 2002: How much I love these fuzzy branching Nastaʻliq hyphae of Pouran’s. The way they stand naked in the cold air, without foliage, flowers or fruits. Alive, the strands move and vibrate against a perpetual fog; the nuqtay dancing on the peripheries, like morning dew. In Lahore, fog season would start around end-December and we joked about how it was divine intervention preventing young rebels from sinning on New Year’s Eve. That fog killed sometimes. 

     

    I always thought that fog was bad for plants but, it turns out, it protects and nourishes them, especially in arid lands and deserts. It holds water close and warmth nearer still. So, now, there is talk about how artificial fog could help us grow crops on space stations. 

     

    We repeat the experiments that once made us. 

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  • Sophia Al Maria
  • Year of Desertification: Sophia doesn’t seem afraid of stating the frightful. She has a way of making me reconsider the desi version of my sci-fi musings: in every scenario, we never have the money and infrastructure for interstellar travel. Yet, even for all its doomsday-ness, ennui still triumphs. She says: once upon a time we did not exist // and some day we will cease to again. Maybe that’s why we want to crowd our apartments with potted plants. Maybe it’s our dormant sense of self-preservation yawning. 

     

    The Amazon listing for fake palm leaves continues:
    CARE FREE - Plastic plants is uv resistant and never fade, can be put outside, front porch, back deck, garden, veranda, balcony, reservation where the hot weather kills much fresh plants.

    ---

    What does it matter? (I see) you recoil from what you don’t understand, so you teach it to submit. You are little gods  mortal in your feebleness  trying too hard, constructing dystopian temples that market clean air and water as aspirational commodities. Your lush green lawns, watered frequently (where the hot weather kills much fresh plants), draw up new provocations and continue to isolate us. Each one of us pushed to the edge of extinction. 

     

    // Why don’t we die already //

    // So flowers may bloom from our consumed bodies and carbon exhalations //

     

    --x--

     

    Saira Ansari is an independent writer who employs creative non-fiction to think about art practice, feminist histories, gardens, grief and science fiction.

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  • Sophia Al Maria

    The Future Was Desert, Part I, 2016 Video with found footage, sound
    5 minutes 23 seconds
  • Sophia Al Maria

    The Future Was Desert, Part II, 2016 Video with found footage, sound
    4 minutes 35 seconds
  • WORKS

    • ABBAS AKHAVAN Untitled (C), 2017 Ink on Canson paper Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT) Framed
      ABBAS AKHAVAN

      Untitled (C), 2017
      Ink on Canson paper
      Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each      

      USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT)

      Framed

    • ABBAS AKHAVAN Untitled (K), 2017 Ink on Canson paper Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT) Framed
      ABBAS AKHAVAN

      Untitled (K), 2017
      Ink on Canson paper
      Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each      

      USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT)

      Framed

    • ABBAS AKHAVAN Untitled (L), 2017 Ink on Canson paper Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT) Framed
      ABBAS AKHAVAN

      Untitled (L), 2017
      Ink on Canson paper
      Diptych: 56 x 70 cm each      

      USD 6,000 (Excluding VAT)

      Framed

  • About Abbas Akhavan

    The work of Abbas Akhavan (b. 1977, Tehran, Iran; lives/works: Montreal) ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture and performance. The direction of his research has been deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. The domestic sphere, which he proposes as a forked space between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of study in his practice. More recent works have wandered into spaces and species just outside the home: the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes. His works can be found in private and public collections around the world, including The Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, UAE; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; UBS Investment Bank; The Farook Collection, Dubai, UAE; and Alma Mater Society: University of British Columbia, Canada.  

  • About Amir H. Fallah

    Amir H. Fallah was born in Tehran, Iran in 1979. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from University of California Los Angeles in 2005. Fallah’s artistic oeuvre incorporates painting, photography, sculpture, and installation though the artist considers himself primarily a painter. His works are profoundly intimate, inspired by youthful memories, cultural traditions and his experience as an immigrant. Fallah received the COLA Artist Fellowship (2020); Northern Trust Purchase Prize, at EXPO Chicago and won The LA County Arts Commission Civic Art Program (2018); the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2015 and participated in the 9th Sharjah Biennial, Sharjah, UAE (2009). His works are part of several private and public collections, including the Museum Of Art and History, the Cerritos College Public Art Collection, the Smart Museum of Art, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Salsali Private Museum Collection and the Microsoft Art Collection. He recently was the recipient of the California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists.

  • About Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

    Born in Qazvin, Iran in 1922, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s distinguished career has spanned more than five decades. Incorporating traditional reverse glass painting, mirror mosaics and principles of Islamic geometry with a modern sensibility, her sculptures and installations defy easy categorization.  Farmanfarmaian's work is housed in several major public collections including; the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, USA; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; the Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, VA, USA; Grand Rapids Museum of Art, Grand Rapids, MI, USA; Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi, UAE; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, USA; Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, France; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX, USA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA; Monir Museum, Negarestan Museum Park Gardens, Tehran, Iran; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, USA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA; Museum of Modern Art, Tehran, Iran; Niavaran Cultural Center, Tehran, Iran; Queensland Gallery of Contemporary Art, Queensland, Australia; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA; Tate Modern, London, UK; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, Iran; Toledo Art Museum, Toledo, OH, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.

  • About Pouran Jinchi

    Born in Mashhad, a sacred shrine city in Iran, Pouran Jinchi became attuned early in life to the way architecture, objects, decoration, and the written word can be imbued with symbolic power. This awareness is threaded throughout her body of work, which explores the dense intersectionality of literary and pictorial narratives. Jinchi's work is collected by museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA; the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian, Washington, DC, USA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University, USA; Pratt Institute, New York, USA. 

  • About Sophia Al Maria

    An artist, writer and filmmaker, Sophia Al Maria received her MFA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. With musician Fatima Al Qadiri, Al Maria coined the concept of Gulf Futurism to describe how the future as imagined by the West has already become reality in the Gulf. Al Maria's works have been acquired by international institutions and foundations including Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA; Art Jameel, Dubai, UAE; MATHAF, Doha, Qatar; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE.