Farrah Karapetian: LEAD APRON

By Harren, Natilee | Artforum International, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Farrah Karapetian: LEAD APRON


Harren, Natilee, Artforum International


Early on in the protests that prompted President Hosni.Mubarak's resignation and the end of a nearly six-decade-long secular dictatorship in Egypt, an illustrated tactical brochure was leaked online and translated into English for Western traders. The pamphlet, titled "How to Protest Intelligently," assumed the voice of the Egyptian people and listed demands and goals alongside instructions on how to carry out acts of civil disobedience as effectively and safely as possible. Among these, a diagram of "necessary clothing and accessories" demonstrated the ways in which everyday items could be strategically deployed to outfit a makeshift, nonviolent people's army: comfortable sneakers to run in; a hoodie, goggles, and scarf to protect the upper body, face, eyes, and mouth; thick gloves for handling hot tear-gas canisters; a pot-lid shield; and a can of spray paint with which to thwart police by obscuring their vision through visors and windshields.

LA-based artist Farrah Karapetian adopted this document as the basis for "Accessory to Protest," a series of photograms and objects (all 2011) through which she continues her exploration of the shared concerns of photography and sculpture. Entering the exhibition space of Lead Apron, a rare-books store and gallery, visitors were confronted first with the photogram Accessory to Protest 4 (Red Hoodie). At about four by two-and-a-half feet, the work features a ghostlike and seemingly incandescent hoodie floating against a burnt-umber background, the garment's zipper a gleaming streak. Karapetian's placement of this work seemed meant to implicate the viewer in the pamphlet's provocations to action, as displayed on a clothes hanger nearby was Negative: Hoodie, the very object--what she termed a "constructed negative"--the artist had crafted out of diaphanous organza in order to make the image. In all, eight unique photograms depicted as many "accessories," each life-size and aglow in vivid cadmium red and yellow hues evocative of X-rays and burns. Joining these prints were two additional constructed negatives, Negative: Spray Can and Negative: Sneakers, cast in transparent resin and effervescent with bubbles of captured air. …

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