In Land/s, U.S.-based Iranian photographer Gohar Dashti investigates the power of the wilderness to make people feel at home, wherever they find themselves. Each photograph in the series depicts a mobile billboard featuring an American landscape, set against a similar-looking backdrop in Iran. This fusion of far-flung places, inserted into the manicured gardens of the Aga Khan Park surrounding the Museum, draws attention to the challenges of migration.
Dashti’s visibly staged, constructed photographs were inspired by a request from a friend. “On one of my trips, an immigrant friend asked me to take a postcard back to her family in our country of origin,” she says. “On the front of the postcard was a photograph of the natural environment in her new home. On the back she had written, ‘I live here. A place similar to our home.’” Fittingly, Land/s is a reminder of how nature connects us to our homelands, childhoods, cultures, and histories.
The photographs in Land/s are the result of countless journeys between places as Dashti searched out similar-looking landscapes, and then reconstructed them in far-away places. In some images, the inserted photograph is barely noticeable; in others, the billboard structures and photographs are clearly visible as they cast shadows or succumb to the elements. Dashti’s efforts parallel the hard work required when a person is settling into a new home and searching for the familiar as they strive to integrate into a different place. It also echoes memories of the home left behind, which inevitably become frayed and imperfect over time.
Like the photographs in Land/s, the Aga Khan Park is the product of influences stemming from a multitude of global locales. It is home to Mughal- and Persian-influenced chahar bagh quadripartite gardens and water features, as well as closely shorn lawns inspired, in part, from 17th-century England, privacy hedges, and various other influences from traditional formal flower gardens. By displaying Dashti’s large-scale photographs of majestic, seemingly untouched natural landscapes in the more structured environment of the Park, many different places are collapsed into the viewer’s field of vision and many types of homes and cultures are subtly referenced and fused.
These works, and the manner in which they are displayed, suggest that these experiences are not limited to people who have relocated over vast distances or across cultures. Whether they move from the countryside to the city, from a bustling metropolis to a quiet town, or from one country to another, many people experience their own uprootings and rerootings. Despite the lack of visible human presence, these subtle landscapes draw attention to our shared desire to forge connections.
Curated by Marianne Fenton
Organized by the Aga Khan Museum, in partnership with CONTACT