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Pantea Karimi: The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics
September 11 - October 17Free
MEET THE ARTIST IN THE GALLERY ON THESE DAYS:
Sep 12, 3-6 PM; Sep 19, 12-6 PM; Oct 3, 12-6 PM; and Oct 17, 3-6 PM
Since 2014, Pantea Karimi’s work has been an exploration into the pages of medieval and early modern scientific manuscripts. Karimi’s current project reflects on her intensive science training in high-school with the aim of becoming a doctor; a goal that she abandoned to pursue an art career. This project revisits her interest in the topic through the lens of art.
White and branded footwear, bright-colored socks, and backpacks, polished nails, makeup kits, cassettes, and glossy posters of Western celebrities were the forbidden items that kept hundreds of teenage girls—who were otherwise sheathed in full hijabs—at the schoolyard before attending their classes. The long lines and the frustrating process of searching for these items by the school authorities were to assure that everyone conformed to the rules of public life in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The story of coming-of-age in post-revolutionary Iran is accompanied by the pressure placed on the youth for excelling in mathematics, arguably the most esteemed subject of study in Iran.
“The Unbearable Lightness of Mathematics” is Pantea Karimi’s personal story of four years of science education in the late 80s under the Islamic Republic of Iran.
For this solo exhibition at the Mercury 20 Gallery, Karimi has made a series of mock blackboards animated by chalk-written mathematical formulas topped with the phrase In the Name of God in Persian as well as the iconic headshots of Iran’s revolutionary leaders. The black thread formation and marked spots on the floor are reminders of the long lines in her schoolyard and the atmosphere she experienced every morning before her class. Ironically these demarcations are also familiar during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with a few “forbidden” objects mounted amid the gallery, Karimi reconstructs her Iran’s science classroom of the 1980s. While a personal story, this exhibition connotes a restrictive educational system that did not leave much room for focused-learning or personal explorations. This poignant anxiety is captured through the gradual fading of the contents of the mock blackboards. Mathematics was, indeed, too abstract and aloof to stimulate the articulation of subversive thoughts, artistic sentiments, and socio-political views. Unbearably “light” for the “heavy” environment in which it was taught, mathematics is both the agonizing and the celebrated protagonist in this exhibition.