Amir Chasson studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, London
Amir currently lives and works in London
A conversation between Alex Waters and Amir Chasson
Alex Waters: Your work for this exhibition appears to be comprised of three separate elements: the painted construction which hovers somewhere between abstraction and geometric design, whilst also hovering between painting and sculpture; the portraits, painted with a smooth surface and careful attention to detail; and the found image (Elvis and parents). Can you talk a little about how these elements fit together? Have you constructed a 'house of cards', or can the individual parts exist without the whole?
Amir Chasson: Like most things in life, the show can be perceived in three ways:
1. As one homogenous entity, an organic whole, in which the parts are custom-made for each other. In this interpretation, the three components – the tower, the Presley family press photo and the portraits at the back – are in a co-dependent relationship, each equally important and all essential for understanding the whole. They are linked together in a kind of symbiosis, feeding on one another’s presence.
2. As two separate mini-exhibitions. The first consists of the imposing tower that confronts you as you come into the gallery, with the Presleys as its sidekick. The second starts when you walk behind the tower and view it from the other side. Then you see the spit and string it is made of, the bolts and screws that barely hold it all together. And you experience this sense of disillusionment – which is reflected back at you in the portraits, slightly hidden from view up to that point, which, with their resigned and patient expressions, are waiting for you to discover them.
3. As three completely separate components. In this interpretation, what is at stake is the inherent ambition of the two-dimensional image to appear as a three-dimensional object – and the sadness that comes from the realisation that, in the end, this is futile, and the flatness of the surface will always prevail. Of course, there is also sadness and melancholia in the Presley family photo and the portraits, which show how, particularly when people have to keep up appearances, all their neurosis and fear float to the surface and reveal themselves in the form of a crooked smile and a skin condition.
AW: The 'French Nurse’s Dream' is an illustrated example of dream interpretation from Freud, in which a nurse dreams that the child she is caring for urinates incessantly to such an extent that urine becomes a sea on which increasingly larger vessels pass by. She then wakes from the dream to find the infant crying having wet the bed. Your exhibition at OUTPOST gallery is entitled 'My French Nurses Dream’: why have you proclaimed the nurse’s dream yours? Is this a case of appropriation or are there more sinister forces at work?
AC: I guess it is a combination of both. I thought this would be the perfect title for a show that touches on masculinity and otherness. I loved the non-masculine feel of the title: it is not meant to be misleading, after all - it refers to a woman from a masculine point of view, to the way she is objectified, reduced to her gender, to her status as a foreigner and care worker. What must it have been like to be a French nurse in the 19th or early 20th century!? She is the ultimate ‘other’. But this is not just an attempt to dress the work up with a psychoanalytical context. The French nurse’s dream describes the irritation that causes the sleeper to wake up and start functioning. It is a sad and sobering moment of self-consciousness, in which one is forced to start functioning – or at least to appear to do so. There is a struggle here between one’s desire to go on sleeping and the disrupting mental stimulus that forces one to wake up and attend to some need. In the same way, the process of making and showing work is a dream-like state that ends when the show is finished. The dream goes on as long as the exhibition is on, but it’s in its final stage, when the urge to wake up is at its most intense. In three weeks, I’ll have to take it all down, and hopefully by then I will be looking forward to waking up.