ARTIST TALK: MOHSEN AZAR, 2020 MFA

Meet Mohsen Azar. Azar was born in Isfahan just after the Iranian and Iraqi war. Mohsen came to the U.S. to pursue an MFA, and to study the state of political affairs in his own country and its global connections. As a photographer, Azar is “interested in the institution of seeing, the politics of presentation, and the possibilities for representation.” He investigates the nature of looking, which he believes comes with a set of unconscious expectations informed through media and society. Azar considers documentation of trauma: “I explore the ways we approach, react and respond to trauma, as a part of a whole and as an individual. I investigate the proposition of pain and protest in imagery. In a world that is increasingly connected, one that allows the rich to influence the choices of the poor, in a world where power and money can shape a foreign landscape in favor of particular individuals, groups or nations, the arising trauma belongs to everyone. Everyone has a share in the bitterness and pain.”

For Battin’ A Hundred Azar created Landscapes, a series of five photographs. At first glance, the images appear to be tranquil scenes devoid of humans. The monochromatic pictures look vaguely familiar, and the titles–TurkishYemeniIraqiAfghan, and Syrian Landscape–trigger memories and scenes of warzones. Azar re-presents well-known photographs of war yet he digitally removes the dead bodies to manifest the sense of loss. The artist states: “The depicted repetitions of traumas and wars cause the normalization of death in imagery.” Azar makes the familiar seem strange and heightens the reality of combat in a bone-chilling way. Like Richard Mosse, who photographs war-torn regions and reveals hidden conventions of mass-media narratives, Azar also presents war reportage. Unlike Mosse, who uses a large format camera with infrared film, Azar cribs his images from the proliferation of war photographs circulating in the press. The images disrupt our expectations and challenge the calcified media accounts. Through the absence of sensationalist imagery, he encourages the viewer to imagine the atrocities. In this way, Azar evokes a collective empathy and expands the stories of conflict and lives lost in ways that the subjects and media images never could.

Fun facts about Mohsen Azar: he has a cat named Freddy Dorian Mercury. He got his cat during hurricane Dorian and likes Freddy Mercury, who was also a big cat fan.

To learn more about Azar visit mohsenazar.com/work/landscapes

Learn more about Battin’ A Hundred at cam.usf.edu

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