Right Next Door to Nuts and Bolts
On the works of “Capturing Friction,” A Collection by Amir-Nasr Kamgouyān
The contrast that exists between “nature” and “culture” makes one of the most significant dichotomies. In our post-industrial era, the relation that these two “poles” have to each other is interwoven, intricate and even inseparable. Understanding that nature is but an organic unit made of complex mathematical structures, and also that complicated mechanical machines, both in their functionality and coherent performance, prove to be very similar to natural ones, have challenged the criteria of evaluating “the progressive” and “the primitive”—that might as well make this theme somewhat playful.
In spite of their inherent tendency to struggle, the dialogue between nature and technology in Amir-Nasr Kamgouyān’s works does not seem to result in stagnation. In the present collection, the artist attempts to symbolize this dichotomy in form of birds as “the organic” and complex industrial machinery as “the technologic,” and then carves the narration of their encounter on steel. The juxtaposition of the exquisite and meticulously detailed bird with the complex, peculiar and horrendous machine, is the encounter between “nature” and “technology” as the sublime phenomenon—which is otherwise ambiguous and dreadful.
Although in the first glance, the meticulous design of the machines reminisce those of da Vinci, but here the artist’s vantage point is by no means “scientific” but he apparently attempts to move in an opposite direction: deconstruction. His complex machines, being symbolic, non-functional and semi-Dadaistic in nature, endeavor to represent an absurd narration of the ever-increasing industrial technology: these machines, like gears of Francis Picabia (1879-1953), are not actually doing anything, but are merely telling ironic and hyperbolic stories about our industrial and technological world.
Notwithstanding, the interaction between “the poles” in this collection goes way beyond a mere encounter: they are implicitly making love, inattentive to the artist’s intention. The birds’ behavior seem to be receptive in nature, however the tension might not be explicit. The metamorphosis of the nourishing seed to the bolt, and at times the merging of the parts, supports this claim. Thus, the other side of the coin is that these worlds are appealing to each other, because opposites attract. Even the birds’ hysterical prowling and their curious standing and staring before the machines seem to be the initiation of their interaction.
On the other hand, the carving of the images on steel plates greatly assist to reconcile the two worlds in a common “ground.” Gravure, as an old style—which was a helpful instrument in the hands of north European artists such as Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) for narrative purposes, and even as a means for parodying social situations as in the works of William Hogarth (1697-1764)—in Kamgouyān’s works is an indispensable tool to narrate the see-sawing play of tradition and modernity.
Now the reduced bi-polar relationships depicted in this collection—which is based on organic/mechanical dichotomy—transcends to more complicated layers of meaning. The artist’s style and themes that conspicuously come from his ponderings, and also his medium of choice, makes him undeniably different from other generally naïve and shallow numerous mainstream art movements. We encounter this collection, as if we’re watching Modern Times—the unsophisticated (re)actions of “the organic” to “the mechanical” recalls the childlike innocent of Chaplin in the midst of the gears of industry; (re)actions that bring both laughter and tears.
Text by Mahsā Farhādi-kiā
Translation by Hamid Khodāpanāhī