Iranian artist Mahsa Aleph’s current exhibition at Mohsen Gallery’s Pasio reveals the artist’s musings on her older work, Aleph’s Library. Originally entitled Curated Author, which was an expansion of a previous work called Only the Author has Read the Book dating to 2013. As its title suggests, this was a book that had been never been read – one of its pages had never been turned. The artist’s new book has been treated just as one treats food that is decaying: she buries it with salt. Viewers will be able to see Aleph’s book covered in salt crystals to the point that not even the title or the author’s name are readable.
The exhibition also expounds upon the idea of the artist as curator. The Latin verb curare carries the meanings of ‘caring’ and ‘curing’, and since the 18th century, interestingly, the verb ‘to cure’ also means to preserve by salting. Such meanings are physically revealed in this exhibition through the artist’s colossal library home to around 1,000 books. Located on the third wall of a high cubic abyss, the audience needs to reach the books by standing against the wall and slowly moving along the projecting narrow ledge, unless, of course, they fall into the gap. Even when they do reach the library, the majority of the books are beyond the visitor’s reach. This chasm is formed by an empty space in the centre of the gallery in the manner of a black square surrounded by four white ledges. Aleph’s treated books give way to the idea of reading, translation and interpretation — however, given the distance of the books — out of human reach — the ability to engage with them is impossible. This conceptually engaging exhibition showcases Aleph’s book better left admired visibly and their contents imagined.
Aleph’s Library runs from 26 May to 21 June 2017. Mohsengallery.com