Posted: 17 November 2020

Posted: 17 Nov 2020

Abbas Zahedi joins the gallery

Belmacz is delighted to announce the representation of Abbas Zahedi


From the Grove Fish Bar in West London to the 2017 Venice Biennale, culminating in an MA at Central Saint Martins, Abbas Zahedi’s entry into the international art scene can be described as otherwise. After completing his initial studies in physiology and pharmacology his route into medicine was cut short due to personal affliction – catastrophic experiences which moved him to seek new forms of healing. What followed were years of working for and with communities, helping to establish projects and platforms that do not seek to foreground ‘inclusion’ but rather, through dialogues, to reformulate notions of sociality. The themes at the core of this work, relationality, community, and dialogue, are devices Zahedi uses in his practice to re-evaluate ways of being, existence, and how histories, personal and collective, intertwine.


Working with an interdisciplinary blend of social practice, performance, installation, moving-image, institution-building and writing, Zahedi’s work refuses classification through its post-minimalist aesthetic and modes of ensemble. It is paradoxical therefore that the seemingly domestic objects employed in works such as MANNA: (Machine Aided Neural Networking of Affect) (2017) and Dwelling: In This Space We Grieve (2019) yearn for proximity: evoking psychological and philosophical feeling. Or as Cédric Fauq describes, “Zahedi’s works make me feel, deeply, the irrelevance of language to communicate longing, mourning, faith, and hope, showing me the horizon for a communicating otherwise, which involves many unarticulated vibrations.” (sic)[1]


In MANNA: (Machine Aided Neural Networking of Affect) (2017), part of Zahedi’s installation for the Diaspora Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, handmade bottles of Shandy Saffron, a non-alcoholic beverage, were distributed to visitors. This act of generosity not only interrogated practices of consumption but had poignant roots with the artists’ own family’s heritage of ceremonial drinks making. By infusing the highly personal with the quasi-commercial, Zahedi reflects on what constitutes social belonging; aspiring for conviviality rather than assimilation.


Epistemic disobedience, or a “freshie” bending the logics of nominal systems that ain’t working? Zahedi’s work sets parameters through which we can all re-re-engage with grand topics such as existence and being. In this way, poetic abstraction is used to formulate what appears to be contorted phenomenological studies. #DeleteTheBeans (2020), a montage or visual essay bringing together a plethora of viewpoints, soaked in cyan and magenta, is case in point. In the short video Zahedi reminds us “the kind of mistakes that ‘freshies’ make, when they speak, is actually very philosophical,” asking us not to discount these voices because they do not have the correct “IELTS qualifications.” By refusing a narrow point of enunciation and allowing logics to bend, Zahedi creates a nurturing space for queer thoughts, neo-diasporic bodies, and new engagements with one another.


Establishing relationships is a prominent feature of Zahedi’s practice. In his recent solo exhibition at South London Gallery (How to Make a How from a Why?), Zahedi worked with the duo Saint Abdullah to create a 60-minute soundscape (In This Space We Leave (2020)) that electrified the historic exit of the gallery’s recommissioned fire station. More than a mere accompaniment, the score became what Tina Campt has defined as phonic substance: a sound that is contingent to and beyond the visual, a powerful sound that emanates from the work itself.[2] In This Space We Leave, not only expanded the sensorial aesthesis and affect so affixed to the exhibition but co-opted the gallery’s architecture enacting a practice of refusal.[3]


Zahedi’s next large-scale project Ouranophobia SW3, developed with General Release, opens on November 7 and will run until December 2, 2020. Semiotically indicating an irrational fear of heaven, the project extends Zahedi’s interest in the shadowy structures hidden by façades. A pursuit the Pop Punk band Burn Out Brighter summarise in their song Uranophobia “I know I’m depressing with the songs that I’m singing/ But life seems better when everything has meaning.”




Abbas Zahedi (b. 1984, London) studied medicine at University College London, before completing his MA in Contemporary Photography: Practices and Philosophies at Central Saint Martins in 2019. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including: Thinking Time, Artangel (2020); Jerwood Arts Bursary (2019); Aziz Foundation Academic Scholarship (2018); and Khadijah Saye Memorial Fund Scholarship (2017). Recent exhibitions include: Brent Biennial(2020), London; How To Make A How From A Why? (2020), South London Gallery, London; In Hindsight… (2020), Bladr, Copenhagen; B (2019) Belmacz, London; Degree Show (2019) Central Saint Martins, London; The Age of New Babylon (2019) Lethaby Gallery, London; Diaspora Pavilion (2018), Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton; Pressure Makes Diamonds (2018), Rich Mix, London; appetite (2018), Apiary Studios, London; Diaspora Pavilion (2017), Venice Biennale, Venice; rb&hArts (2008), Royal Brompton Hospital, London.


image: ‘How To Make A How From The Why?’ 2020, installation detail, South London Gallery. Photographed by Andy Stagg


further details 



[1] Cédric Fauq (2020), Transactional Objects Full of Contexts in Voided Sites. In Mousse Magazine, Vol 71.

[2] Tina Campt (2019), Black visuality and the practice of refusal. In Women & Performance, Vol. 29.1.

[3] Ibid.


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