A departure from previous work, Tender Calamities features Panteha Abareshi’s examination of their own body as material, stripped of their personal identity to discuss the more fundamental nature of deterioration in human physicality vis-à-vis medicalized and intimate circumstances. While in part literally referring to states of the body, the title of the exhibition also provides a framework to consider the body of works. Tender, by adjective, is soft or delicate, while calamity, by noun, is a grievous affliction or adversity. Abareshi presents multiple ways to interpret this embodied/disembodied title and how the body, illness and disability might be considered in the present and future.
Included in the exhibition are two new video works, Methods of Care for the Precarious Body and Unlearn the Body, which conjure 16mm reel-to-reel films and slide presentations used as education tools in the 1950s and 1960s. By calling to this era of obsolete and biased science of medical care—one that advocates rehabilitation and treatment to conform to an idealized, abled body—, these works speak to the ableism that is pervasive in language, behavior, and media that have and continue to persist today. Both video works also engage in our (as viewers) conscious and subconscious discomfort with disabled bodies through voyeurism. This is magnified through the artist’s body as both the object of focus (seen in Unlearn the Body) and object out of focus (from Methods of Care for the Precarious Body), inviting us to critically consider the source of our discomfort that the works elicit.
In Aggregation and New Artifacts, Abareshi contends with didactic representations and interpretations of the disabled/sick body through two-dimensional and sculptural forms. Aggregation is an installation featuring video footage of a performance in which the artist connects themselves to an EKG machine. Readings from the artist’s body are captured in a singular, indistinct visual language, resulting in an abstracted imaging of the artist’s body where the emotionality of this highly vulnerable and bodily experience is lost in the stream of data. The body is further abstracted as post-mortem remnants in New Artifacts, in which the artist experiments with the seeming, physical permanence of the pelvis through non-medical modifications. By playing with representations that are both recognizable and unrecognizable as human forms, Abareshi problematizes the realities of fragility and mortality.
In experimenting with traditional, comfortable ideas of identity, illness and disability, Tender Calamities reassesses the diseased, malfunctioning and otherized body as a natural phenomenon—normal, inevitable and an object of life.
courtesy of the artist
(b. 1999, Montreal, Canada)
Panteha Abareshi’s (they/them) work draws from their personal experience of grappling with the abstraction of many seen and unseen qualities of chronic health issues stemming from the genetic condition, sickle cell zero beta-thalassemia. Abareshi’s performance-based multidisciplinary approach boldly addresses the complexities of living within a body that is highly monitored, constantly examined, and sometimes made to feel like a specimen. Abareshi’s endurance defying performances pushes the body to, and often beyond, its prescribed limits. The risks in these performances posture an abjectification of their own corporeal form to continue an examination of bodily deterioration—touching on the reciprocity in themes of universal fragility, fear, pain and mortality.
Panteha Abareshi holds a BFA from the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design. Abarishi has performed and exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; Human Resources, Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery among others.