My artistic practice is centered on the photographic image, tackling notions of origin, reproduction and misappropriation. I produce mashed-up compositions of images from various sources, montaging them together through techniques of manual collage and digital manipulation, as well as layerings of video and text. My source materials draw primarily on art and its institutions, namely the museum and its systems of display through realms of historicity, reconstruction and the artifact.
The images I work with may undergo transformations through erasure, appropriation and deliberate misinformation – tactics that reframe the gaze, introducing new connotation for the image and an absorbed mode of viewing. Rather than undermine their inner logic, these operations are meant to stimulate the image away from the slumber of a familiar context, to scratch the surface and gain access the subterranean layers of its unconscious. In collage, such procedures can take the form of subtraction, addition (which likewise omits parts of the image through overlaying it with another), just as with textual readymade – as, for example, in a sticker on a museum wall, which informs visitors that the work has been removed due to restoration, that is, marking its absence.
I have always been fascinated by notions of absence and loss, whether in their emotional or political reverberations. Feelings of lack find their way to my work through the incisions made to images, which compromise their integrity while allowing dark and surreal cavities unto the surface – zones of emptiness that resonate with the erotic and psychological.
In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, an incidence that sparked an obsessive interest in the public, arguably giving the painting the canonical and perhaps mythical status it enjoys today. The words of the thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, can teach us something about the motive: "I stole the Mona Lisa to avoid the foolish admiration of this masterpiece by stupidly nostalgic people. Those hands are too well drawn, her eyes are not unexpected, that nose planted stupidly in the middle of her face, the flat forehead, her mouth, this monstrosity in a word ... I stole the Mona Lisa because I am a poet."
By stealing the Mona Lisa, Peruggia has turned the painting into what it is today. To me, this deed is as much an emotional theft as it is in any other respect. The position expressed by Peruggia stands for much of my personal pursuit as an artist: I force the image into becoming something else, I want to steal its identity.
Dana Darvish, 2016