Maryam Faridani doesn’t want a seat at your table. In fact, they fantasize about a post-table world. Faridani uses she/they pronouns (no preference) and brown emojis. They stopped updating their website last year, leaving it to be absorbed back into the maelstrom of SEO and abandoned domains as a rejection of the implicit duty of an artist to be a self-marketing entrepreneur.
A quick Google search yields numerous parafictions of self-mythology. Their SAIC alumni profile reads: “After finishing my undergraduate work in Tehran I moved to Chicago to pursue a masters. However, currently I am living in my computer and my computer is not Tehran nor Chicago.” Faridani does not have a traditional online presence, nor do they align with any particular genre or contemporary school of thought. The defining characteristic of their work is a line of inquiry about what it is to be alive and online in 2022.
Faridani is resistant to labels and fixed identities. They are slippery, mischievous and can talk their way out of any box that feels limiting. The work frequently evokes laughter, but not because it is overtly funny. It is disarmingly playful and painfully honest. For example: catastrophic Iranian headlines reinterpreted as Instagram GIFs collaged over the artist’s face, which has been filtered to appear childlike. The work is not always this cute. Often it hinges on disturbing or disorienting the viewer.
In Faridani’s early childhood, they started filling out tests upside down. The answers were correct; the execution, one imagines, was quite concerning to teachers. Such small acts of disobedience would later inform their performance art. When not inverting Q&As, young Faridani was experimenting with their father’s Pentax camera and supplementing primary school with DIY, internet-based studies. Gritty, brutally honest photography, specifically that of Diane Arbus, was their first love. Faridani’s relationship with photography was fraught; consternation over the amount of material and chemical waste created led them to abandon the medium to pursue traditional theater. Still not satisfied, the nighttime cultural cram sessions expanded to include research on what Faridani calls “durational body performance.” Their face lights up when they talk about discovering the work of Marina Abramovi? via a BBC documentary. Here, “was the intensity of Arbus without the material waste produced by darkroom photography.” Performance art, posits Faridani, is the purest form of sustainable artmaking.
Faridani’s performance practice hasn’t lost momentum. They received an MFA from SAIC in 2019, and have performed at notable Chicago venues including Elastic Arts, DfbrL8r, Links Hall and the Graham Foundation. They have participated in group shows at Roots & Culture, Zhou B Art Center and Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Whether playful or pointed in execution, the work remains conceptually heavy. Faridani grapples with the insipid ways in which capitalism and Western-centric patriarchy infiltrate all that we do. Their website-icide was also informed by a refusal to participate in the art economy the way our shared alma mater expects.
Perhaps the most consistent device in Faridani’s work is the uncanny ability to toy with and also mourn that their work will always be to some extent festishized or have the tired “trope of the Middle Eastern woman” stereotype projected onto it. To Faridani, this feels more like an assigned or assumed identity, rather than one that resonates personally. This informs a performance persona composed of shattered shards: the conception and perception of self, of which Faridani is the sole auteur and enacter.
The newest frontiers for Faridani are the quantification of their own labor as a resource, the viability of an authentic internet presence that doesn’t feel limiting, and an increased intentionality about limiting their carbon footprint. Eliminating their website was phase one of a quite literal interpretation of post-internet art forms. This polite antagonism is what makes the work so intriguingly charming and impossible to anticipate. An Internet Artist without a dedicated dot com? I can’t wait to see what’s next. (Erin Toale)