Bahar Behbahani (b. 1973 in Tehran, lives in New York), Saffron Tea, 2008. Stereo, 12:00
In her paintings and video works, Bahar Behbahani addresses volatility of mnemonic time and place — since her work is autobiographical, the references are to Iran of her childhood — yet personal memories have been reconfigured in the art practice, and thus discursively returned to their origin. Her media — be it paint or pixel — serve as distancing devices, as multiple lenses though which feelings of displacement and longing can be experienced and observed at the same time. Saffron Tea first seduces us into an illusion of dreamlike rooms of memory, their stifling beauty exuding warm light, with shimmers of fruit in cut-crystal vases, with doilies covering armchairs in which elderly women are fanning themselves in the summer’s heat. The sweetness of comfort is stifling and bleeds like pigment in water, as its images are distorted by the camera’s eye. Suddenly, this illusion is extinguished, as she who sees it is no longer in the golden atmosphere of memories; instead, she is submerged in an enormous fishtank, holding her breath and seeing everything reflected in the iris of the I.