UNQUIET NATURE, JELLY RATS AND EVERYTHING IN-BETWEEN

Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri 01
Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri

Adonia Bouchehri talks about the potential of moving image to create in-between-spaces where lived and imagined experiences meet.



The moving image offers the opportunity to open a portal into another layer of reality. Inventing a space that is different from the everyday with its strictures and structures, an everyday that isn’t always easy to navigate. I look at the filmic space as one which offers infinite depth to explore a place that can express lived and imagined experiences on equal footing. Space and time can be stretched in ways that everyday lived experience often doesn’t permit. I like to think about the spaces that I create within my work as layers that exist within reality, not outside of it and not distinct and separate from it, but in communication and interaction with lived experience. I think about the spaces as woven, porous, idiosyncratic net-like-creatures that lay within the world but move at a slightly different pace. They are in-between-spaces located in-between lived experience, imagination and memory.

Hooman Koliji writes in his book Architectural drawing and imaginative knowledge in Islamic and western traditions very interestingly about the relationship between the material, tangible, graspable and the imaginative:

The imaginal World, where the material and non material coexist,
is the source of all creation. In looking at the nature of the imaginal world,

which represents an intermediary between the non visible ideality and visible
reality, one could infer that the creative act is transformative,
thereby mimetic, and is manifest within the realm of subtle matter.

I’m interested in this space where the visible and invisible meet and enter into a relationship with one another. The reciprocal relationship that is formed between them and how they inform each other. It is an ongoing investigation of how life, from recognizable, lived experience, is married with something less familiar and imaginative, a poetic space that opens up and allows for a different existence within the world.

There always is a to and fro movement that structures my work between different dimensions: the imagined, the experienced and the remembered. I feel a great joy when moving away from the reality that is informed by the everyday structures, opinions, news, encounters, and images that I am faced by, venturing off into a space that is softer and more open than the structures that inform everyday reality. The further I venture the lighter I get and the more space I create in my mind allowing for floating thoughts, which aren’t tied to pre-conceived concepts. Away from the noises and hustling and bustling of the city. This being said, I have always lived in big cities and I love the diversity, liveliness and chatter about cities such as London. But the imaginative realm offers me a space of calm where the noises fade and I am able to think and make sense of the multitude of sensory impressions. Like walking by the sea or standing in the midst of a forest.


Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri 02
Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri

Images themselves aren’t totalities, they always partly exist outside of themselves. This is what draws me to the making of images, creating a continuum out of a lived reality and at the same time allowing for an opening up to another realm. I often think that works that venture away from the known and the preconceived give us more knowledge about the complexity of reality as it is lived on an everyday basis.

This is something I have always admired about Kafka’s work. He creates a reality where there is a space to uncover all of the hidden corners, the invisible spaces, the sharp edges of the reality that we live in. In the writing of Kafka these spaces are made visible, we can see them. They are woven into the visual fabric of the stories he creates. He uncovers the impossibilities of life in a way that makes life itself more accessible. That is at least why on my account I always felt a sense of comfort within the spaces Kafka creates.

Taking something from lived experience and transforming it, so that it can gain a life of its own, acquiring new meaning while still communicating with the context from which it was taken, interests me. This is what I refer to when I speak about weaving together a reality.

I often begin a work with an object I come across by chance. This could be in a store, on the streets or anywhere really. This object opens something up for me. It is an encounter in the sense that the object in question has a strong liveliness, which of course in that moment is entirely due to my own subjectivity. However, what ultimately happens if the work is successful, is that I succeed in creating a reality where this liveliness I felt can also be perceived by others. The object functions like a portal to something larger and less contained in its singularity. It is like a cut or an opening into the fabric of reality.

My latest work Jello started with me coming across a large jelly rat in the reduced section of a shop in London. I was simultaneously gripped and repelled by the object. My first reaction towards it was to imagine how it would feel to eat the rat, to chew it bit by bit, letting the jelly slide down my throat and accumulate inside my belly. This was the starting point for a period of research and a whole year of thinking and engaging with this object in my mind until I was able to create the work.

For the creation of Jello I combined CGI animation and live action footage. The use of CGI provided me with the opportunity to construct a space, which materially resembled the jelly rat. The space was supposed to have a plastic-like and contrived feeling to it. The work is centered around a character whom we never, apart from her hands, actually see. We hear the character’s voice who pulls the viewer into the space she inhabits. She lives in isolation inside a room, where she works and sleeps. Her only companions are a kiwi bird and a turtle, who each carry significance for her existence within the room. Ultimately it is the jelly rat who explodes this highly controlled space of isolation and obsession in which she exists. I have created the character in a way that she herself is supposed to reflect the feeling I have had when I first encountered the jelly rat. A feeling of attraction and repulsion coexisting at the same time and creating an unresolved tension. This project was very much concerned with carving out a space where the jelly rat became so large that it made up the entire fabric of the work.


Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri 03
Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri

It makes me think about the writing of Clarice Lispector, making a dent into the seemingly inflexible and at times hardened reality. She succeeds in opening up a space that is much larger; it takes us out of our – at times small and limited – vision and brings us back into contact with a more extended and larger sense of reality. In her writing there is a frequent mention of domestic and interior spaces but these spaces are rather prop-like, covering and hiding something much larger, more monstrous and alive. She slowly strips away the prop-like nature of these objects and spaces and presents us with a monstrous universe willing to gobble us up in a heartbeat. In The Passion according to G.H. for instance, it is the discovery of a cockroach in the protagonist’s house which causes reality to unravel. The initial disgust and fear the character meets the cockroach with, opens up a space that strips away all the structures that the protagonist had been enveloped by. It brings her back to prehistoric times and the universe at large. This space is larger and more frightening than the smaller, constructed space that the character dwelled in previously. Lispector makes us zoom into something so closely that it entirely envelops us, just like we are brought so close to the cockroach in The Passion according to G.H. that we begin to enter it and at the same time we are entered by it.

It is this movement between reality in its smallest and most narrow sense and the vastness of it when prejudice and suffocating structures unravel. It is this space that I aim to explore within my work. It doesn’t require much to find oneself bound up in a tightened version of reality, be it through the experience of everyday life or works of fiction.

Just one example of a work evoking a tightened sense of reality is a film I watched last night, namely Paolo Sorrentino’s The hand of God. The film struck me in its utter small mindedness.

I don’t want to spend any time on the particularities of the work. I will just sum it up in a few words. It is an elaborate meditation on a male dominated culture, where women are portrayed as either meat or mothers. One is faced with bright, shiny and inflated images constantly competing for attention while any sense of criticality is completely absent. These are blind spaces of boredom and emptiness that Sorrentino evokes, but not in a sense that they reveal something larger. Quite the contrary, works like this shut all thought down and numb the senses. These types of works do the opposite of what I have described of Kafka and Lispector, they close a space, tighten it with preconceived ideas and prejudices. Works like this, with a total lack of criticality, reflect back on the strictures of a tightening reality where just very few can flourish.

These extremes that I have tried to draw out here; the vastness and expansiveness of the works of Kafka and Lispector on the one side, and the prejudiced vacuousness of Sorrentino’s work on the other, show the movement I am interested in. The reality that I can inhabit if I freely roam within a more imaginative state is crashing down when I see works like Sorrentino’s The hand of God. It reminds me of a reality that I to some extent am forced to exist in and which creates a tension with the reality I would like to find myself in.


Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri 05
Jello, 2020, Adonia Bouchehri

Just the more, do I then feel the need to make something that allows for a different way of engaging with reality. In my case it is the moving image that allows me to glean objects, images and thoughts from lived experience and take them into an imaginary space. Creating another layer of reality where I can construct new relations between them. The spaces I construct are in-between-spaces, they sit in-between the experienced and the imagined. They incorporate the tensions that I have described above between lived and imagined experiences. There is always a sense of struggle that is present within these spaces. A struggle reflecting the unquiet nature of being faced with a reality that one is confronted by on an everyday basis and the effort to create new layers and ways of existing within that reality.


More about Adonia Bouchehri.



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