Interview with Bita Fayyazi

Rather than a sculptor, installation artist, or ceramicist engaged in a somewhat mystic relationship with her materials, Bita Fayyazi (b. 1962, Iran) is an artist who works within a more performative and markedly social practice. Beginning in the mid-1990s, her artistic interventions challenged the official definitions of art that were often circulated in Tehran at that time. Fayyazi struggled to show her work amidst an atmosphere of traditionalism, academics, and the influx of 1990s conceptual art from abroad.

Fayyazi’s oeuvre has been relentlessly calling attention to the most vulnerable group in society. In 2000, in a three-story abandoned house in Tehran, Bita Fayyazi participated in Children of the Dark City, a group exhibition including multi-media installations, sculptures, videos, photographs, and paintings about the harmful effects of heavy air pollution on children. Fayyazi created all-white life-size sculptures of expressive, sculpted children who appear to both play and plead.

Fayyazi successfully entered thousands of outsized ceramic cockroaches into Tehran’s 6th Biennial of Contemporary Ceramic Art, despite an attempt by several members of the committee to oust her work from the show and in doing so, formed the earliest installation piece shown in Tehran. Later, she cast and fired 150 terracotta dogs (Road Kill, 1998), modeled on dead dogs found on the highways in Tehran. She later placed her crushed and run-over dogs on a stretch of empty road near Tehran. Each of Fayyazi’s work has its roots in a form of a participative social sculpture of gathering whatever materials are readily available. She also brings together artists and non-artistically inclined collaborators who can wrap and entwine, paint and cast.

Fayyazi has presented major installations and performances internationally. She participated in the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) with Kismet, a major suspended installation of a cloud of babies morphing into cocoons, cast in bronze. Fayyazi has also exhibited at La Maison Rouge, Paris (2016); Espace Louis Vuitton, Paris (2010 and 2008); the Museum of Modern Art, Freiburg (2007) and the Pergamon Museum, Berlin (2008), among several others. In 2014, she was a laureate of the prestigious Prince Claus Award.

Her works can be found in the collections of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Fabrica (Benetton Group Communication Centre), Treviso; Simon de Pury Collection, Geneva and the Salsali Private Museum, Dubai.

Recently, the Imago Mundi Institute (Luciano Benetton Collection) published a book called Iran: (Contemporary Artists from Iran) in collaboration with Bita Fayyazi, which features 109 Iranian artists.
Fayyazi lives and works in Tehran, Iran.

ZH: Your sculptures are made of a mix of materials, to name a few Clay, Readymade, Glass, and Glaze. What sparks your interest in ceramic art?

I’m interested in any material or medium that serves my ideas. However, my first introduction to the arts was through ceramics with which I underwent training over 30 years ago. From there I moved on to other mediums. The materials which I use find their way into my works after the idea has formed.

ZH: What is the story of the style and taste of your artwork? Where did you get the inspiration from?

I’m not sure, but I can certainly say there is always a story behind my works, and I have found myself intrigued by the idea of ​​telling stories through my art. Never-the-less, I must say that as an artist I would like to tell the story of the times; what we are experiencing, and how it has affected our lives and history.

ZH: What is going on in your mind when you are creating an object?

It could be a story, a fiction derived from real-life happenings. Anything could easily become the subject of my artwork. As I work on a project I think at different levels and various elements and concepts find their ways into the work.

ZH: Are there any materials you have not worked yet but would like to try out? 

Wood in particular is a material which I have not worked with and would be interested to engage in my artworks.

ZH: Your collaboration with other artists has been highly effective in creating several street art installations. What made you pursue collaboration with those artists?

Actually collaborative projects have taken place both in gallery spaces and outside. I find working with others – communal work I’d like to call it – more interesting and thought-provoking, eliciting the input of a number of people, artists plus those without an artistic background. The challenge in the process of such collaborative art projects irrespective of the outcome is highly rewarding to me.

ZH: You shifted your artwork from exhibition art to street area, what was your motive, and how did you find the differential of each experience?

With a review of my art projects, you will see that I haven’t exactly shifted from exhibition to street art or any other venues. Each project has its own criteria and premise and I choose the venue and display most suited to the concept of the project at hand.

ZH: We would like to learn more about your recent involvement with Iranomutimorohosis, which recently got published by IMAGO MUNDI. In that book, you introduced 109 Iranian Artists. How did you manage to organize the participants, and what were the key factors to select those artists?

Some of the artists I knew personally and had even worked with a number of them. The rest were introduced and recommended by others in the field.

ZH: What are the highlights of your career as an artist so far?

I do not have any “highlights” as such; pretty much every project has been a fond artwork in progress.

ZH: Do you have a dream project that you would love to create one day?

All my projects are more or less dreams of one form or another.


In collaboration with ZH media