Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh’s Artistic Collaboration

As part of September public programming here at the Center for Feminist Art, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh stopped by the Forum on Saturday, September 20th to discuss their evolving body of collaborative works with moderator Laurie Ann Farrell, the Executive Director of Exhibitions at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Both artists began the talk with a showing of An Indigestible Dessert, 2008, a recent video recording of a performance by Amer and Farkhondeh, featuring the creation of a cake with the imprints of Tony Blair and George W. Bush, and its eventual destruction via a sledgehammer wielding Amer that left the audience captivated and hungry…for more of their art that is! During the screening of the video, an amused Amer fiddled with the strand of thread attached to her museum badge, reminding the audience of her numerous embroidered creations only footsteps away in the galleries.

(Laurie Ann Farrell of Savannah College of Art and Design asks artists Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh questions about their collaborative work. Photograph by Jessica Shaffer.)

After this presentation, Amer energetically discussed how her eight year collaboration with Farkhondeh first began. In 2000, after a period of crippling depression, Farkhondeh leaned on his good friend Amer for support, and moved into her studio. Without her permission or consent, he started to literally “improve” on Amer’s works in progress while she was out, adding layers of paint to the canvases and drawings! To say the least, Amer was surprised when she discovered Farkhondeh’s additions to her pieces, but was so intrigued by her friend’s provocation on her works that she continued to let him participate, and together they coined the acronym RFGA(Riza Farkhondeh, Ghada Amer) to use as their signature.

In the years following, the artists continued their collaborations in tandem, each working on his or her own contributions in their separate locales. Farkhondeh would paint something on a piece, or use tape rather than paint as his medium, and send it off to Amer who would perhaps add an embroidered section or stencil to the work. The years of their collaboration included a stint at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, where they completed a series of drawings which were later shown at the Kukje Gallery in Seoul in 2007 and at the Tina Kim Gallery here in New York in 2008. The duo currently resides as artists-in-residence at Pace Prints in Manhattan which marks the first time they have ever worked together face to face.

(RFGA, Mosaic Memory of Tongues, 2007. Acrylic, embroidery, and gel medium on canvas. Currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum in Ghada Amer: Love Has No End.Photo courtesy of the artist, and Gagosian Gallery.)

When asked how working together has changed their own individual work, Amer commented that she has definitely noticed elements of RFGA making their way into her own, individual style. In a rather poignant moment that marked the end of the discussion, Farkhondeh remarked that working with Amer has opened his mind and allowed him to become a viewer of his own work, seeing it in a different light than before the pair’s collaboration.

Two works by RFGA are featured in Ghada Amer: Love Has No End. Don’t forget to take advantage of this amazing retrospective of Ghada Amer’s work, curated by Maura Reilly, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, before it closes on October 19th!