Lawrie Shabibi presents A Dish Fit for the Gods by Farhad Ahrarnia, his first solo exhibition in the Middle East region. Ahrarnia’s central premise is the ambivalent engagement between West and East spanning centuries or even millennia. The fever of Egypt, Egyptology and all its findings worked its way into the arts, theatre and dance, architecture and literature, and the development of modernist projects in the Twentieth-century. Ahrarnia explores the aesthetic outcome of these parallel sensibilities, where high modernism converges and entangles with the ancient, mythical and the exotic in order to spiritually articulate itself. A Dish Fit for the Gods juxtaposes ancient imagery, Twentieth-century modernism, hand-embroidered textiles depicting archival images of actors, spies and authors, metalwork and Khatam (Persian micro-mosaic), while touching on complex themes, from modern dance to archeology, espionage to Egyptomania, with a passing nod to sexuality, identity, and the fluid values of orientalism.
The title for the exhibition is taken from a line uttered by Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, shortly before dispatching with Caesar. The play is a prequel to Anthony and Cleopatra, and the symbolic figure of Cleopatra is present in each. The idea of Cleopatra fascinates Ahrarnia -imbued with political, racial and misogynistic over-tones. In A Dish Fit For The Gods Ahrarnia attempts to unpick the politics and the language used to construct her mythology.