Maryam Jafri
Welcome to My Age of Anxiety

Laveronica Arte Contemporanea, Modica / Italy

April 11, 2017

Maryam Jafri
Welcome to My Age of Anxiety

April 15–June 31, 2017

Opening: Saturday, April 15, 6:30pm

Laveronica arte contemporanea
via Grimaldi 93
97015, Modica

Laveronica Arte Contemporanea is pleased to present Welcome to My Age of Anxiety, the first solo exhibition in Italy by Maryam Jafri. The exhibition investigates soft technologies of power invoking self-care at the heart of their disciplinary apparatus, forming what Jafri calls a global Military-Industrial-Wellness complex.

First however, at the entrance Jafri reprises her 2009 work Nogales, in response to the current political climate in the United States. Nogales pairs a lightbox image of the walled town of Nogales, divided along the US/Mexican border with an edited audio recording of Ronald Reagan’s famous speech at the Berlin Wall. Jafri has edited out specific names—Berlin, Europe, Mr. Gorbachev—but kept the rest of the audio recording intact.

At the heart of the exhibition are two recent sculptures, American Buddhist (2016) and Meditation Square (2016). Resembling meditation altars, the two sculptures explore the use of meditation as a soldier training device by the US Army. Unlike the traditional view of basic training, immortalized most notably by Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket in which American soldiers prepare for combat under the training of a sadistic taskmaster, these new techniques deploy a more holistic approach. American Buddhist displays a video of a soldier meditation session on a US Army base in Iraq. The video is a public domain video sourced directly from the US Army. Around and below the flat panel monitor are several plush toys of stuffed Buddhas meant for children, garlands of fake orange flowers and a framed text panel. The second sculpture, Meditation Square features a 60 cm bronze replica of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square being toppled in April 2003 during the Iraq war. Necklaces of wooden prayer beads are draped around the statuette´s neck, an allusion to both the ropes seen in the news photographs and to Saddam’s execution by hanging. Below the statue, on the two lower levels of the altar, are eight framed photographs sourced from various US Army websites, showing images of soldiers meditating, often with eyes closed and in lotus position as well as one group photograph of soldiers reposing in the aptly named Corpse pose. Meditation Square literalizes the promise of mind over matter, taking it to its absurd but logical conclusion—the soldiers appear to be destroying the bronze statue with the powers of their own optimized, meditation-fueled brains.

Also on view is the photo series School/Hospital/Prisons (2012), focusing on School, Hospital and Prison theme rooms for S/M role-play. The rooms function as a training ground where institutional discipline is fused with personal fantasy, psychologically internalized and reenacted.

Rounding out the exhibition in the main space is a new series of sculptures called Self-care (2017) on the use of alternative healing systems such as acupuncture, cupping, and yoga. Silicone feet pierced with acupuncture needles, a toilet paper holder with a cut up yoga mat and a Muslim Buddha praying among newspaper detritus are some of the works in this latest series.

Finally, in the cave Jafri presents her film Avalon (2011). In 2001, in an unnamed Asian country, a man known as F.R., was given 700 USD by his father and told to make something of himself. F. R. founded a multi-million dollar clandestine company that secretly exports fetish wear to the West. The dozens of mostly female workers believe themselves to be sewing body bags for the US military, jackets for psychiatric patients and props for circus animals. Juxtaposing the world of the stage with the world of the factory, and performativity with production, the film probes the different but interlocking forms that work takes today, from the production of goods to the production of subjectivity.