Collateral Memory by Sofia Sacomani
1st November 2022
Niloufar Bakhtiar Bakhtiari is pleased to invite you to Collateral Memory, a site-specific exhibition by QEST scholar and artist Sofia Sacomani examining the conventions of photographic representation in relation to the experience of time and space. Featuring a variety of unique photographic works Sacomani’s debut show will be on display at Niloufar’s home at 3 Avenue Studios, Sydney Close, London SW3 6HW, 25 November – 9 December.
Previously a foundry, the space became a working studio for artists in 1867. Sir Edward Poynter, President of the Royal Academy (1880 – 1906) and Flora Lion (1919 – 1959) famous for her early feminism, were two of the residents. The encounter between the two women around human ability to recall memory stands as the driving inquisition into the past of an historical building. Wishing not to meddle into Sofia’s unique practice, Niloufar chose to let her discover the space alone, therefore adding one more layer of memory to the venue before she began its restoration.
The show will present unique works made with traditional darkroom techniques alongside new experimental works. Over a period of one year, the artist deliberately altered some of her pieces. Carefully arranged in relation to the picture’s composition, this series of 30 works might feel awkward, off-scale or lacking any figurative form but this unusual yet balanced play of figurative distortion and repetition is recurrent in much of Sacomani’s work. It signals the crude and often unresolved nature of memory. Displayed in situ’ at the studio, which is now Niloufar’s home, pieces will shadow the places they were taken whilst others will occupy a new space, re-inscribing memory itself.
Central to Sacomani’s practice is an endeavour to challenge commonplace photographic techniques using forms of image deconstruction and the dissemination of unforeseen narratives and interpretations. Administering a continuous back and forth between process and subject, her work is rooted in an ever-expansive inquiry into the act of looking and its relationship to memory. Continuously changing, reorganising, and integrating layers of place, material and space, the artist addresses what she considers « gaps in time »; fragmented reflections of the past, and the liminal spaces between our acts of thinking and seeing.
Collateral Memory makes use of earlier processes and techniques the artist is well-versed in, such as playing with exposure, light intensity or paper quality. The exhibition includes obscure and blurred works conceived by the artist as landscapes, although they are in fact, out of focus close-up shots too indistinct to decipher. For these abstract photographs, Sacomani lengthily exposed the negative, whilst freely moving the paper in complete darkness; as if the memory was trying to escape the mind, the image tries to escape from the constraints of paper. Collage works made by layering discarded darkroom tests find their way into Sacomani’s oeuvre as a breach in conventional aesthetic language.
Collateral Memory’s power lies in its ability to offer multiple readings: to respond to the photographs as images of something, as objects in a room with particular visual and physical relationships, and as critical inquiry into the nature of photographic reproduction and its limits. The disorientation the viewer experiences when engaging with Sofia Sacomani’s work might force them to use their memory as a way of grounding them in the present. As the English writer John Berger explains in the iconic Ways of Seeing, vision comes before words, thus an entire inventory of the viewer’s memories and previous experiences are revived to decode the elements of Sacomani’s images.
The artist goes one step further by releasing photography from its two-dimensional confines. Using the original plaster recipe that was used in Avenue Studios, she gives images a new-found physicality. Collateral Memory offers viewers the chance to experience time and all its ephemerality whilst considering the captivating and inventive techniques Sacomani employs.