Born in 1979 in Tehran, Iran / Lives in Tehran, Iran
Adriano Pedrosa (AP): What does the title of Nonflammable, Non-stick, Non-stain (2009–10) refer to?
Nazgol Ansarinia (NA): It rhymes a little with its Farsi version, and is screamed by the peddlers selling cheap plastic tablecloths on buses and in the women-only section of the Tehran subway. I was intrigued by the irony of selling sofreh, or tablecloths, which in Iranian culture are symbols of one’s economic status. When I started to use sofreh as a medium to represent statistical reports on the economic situation, I used the same phrases used by people advertising and selling them as goods.
AP: What statistics do you use?
NA: They refer to daily life, such as increases and decreases in prices of utilities, food and drink, education, and clothing—both during a 12-month period and in comparison to the same month of the previous year.
AP: Tell me about the National Security Book Series (2006).
NA: After 9/11, as an international graduate student in the United States, I became subjected to new U.S. policies. Attempting to deal with this, I made work playing with some of the documents related to the new policies, focusing on one report. Looking for possibilities of engaging with the report, I was struck by its language. With the intention of making a dictionary of its lexicon as a companion piece to the report, I noticed that an alphabetized lexicon—including any redundant entries—revealed interesting relationships. Through this reading one starts to question the repetition of and emphasis on certain words, or the unexpected appearance of others. Breaking the syntactical relationships between the words also caused some curious juxtapositions, with unexpected meanings. Years later, the “National Strategy” documents and the language they produced seem to play a more pronounced role in the shaping of events related to the countries they mention. The National Security Book Series is an extended version of the visuallinguistic experiment I started in 2001. It focuses on four of the latest documents published since 2001, and the word “Iran” appears in three of them.
AP: There is a process of translating loaded information into abstraction in your work.
NA: Translating information into abstraction is not a main concern in my work. Rather, what has interested me recently is the possibility of inserting information and meaning into familiar and traditional abstract forms, namely patterns. I often go through a process of conceptual study and visual analysis, taking apart various elements of my chosen subject and piecing them back together in a way that highlights something that is hidden or taken for granted. This reconstruction always follows a system or an imposed structure, and that is maybe what creates the abstraction. In the National Security Book Series I took away the syntactical relationships between the words and put them in alphabetical order to emphasize certain words instead of sentences. In Nonflammable, Non-stick, Non-stain I translated numerical values into a system based on fractal geometry in order to blend statistics into the visuals of an everyday object such as a tablecloth.