Mohammad Hadi Rahnaward


03 November 24 December 2023

Ultimately, all we see is the frame. This fixed frame enhances a sense of theatricality. In his video work, Mohammad Hadi Rahnaward likes to get straight to the point, concentrating the viewpoint on an action, an image, a face that multiplies, lengthens, and repeats itself.

This pared-down approach to filmmaking gives all the more force to his message by making it universal. In the video Show off, which he made in Kabul in 2019, the Afghan artist shows men vying to be the centre of attention, appearing within the golden, moulded frame that reflects a certain vision of power and celebrity. Although the inspiration comes from a specific context and the behaviour of politicians in the run-up to an election, the situation he portrays with limited means takes on the semblance of a parable, one of those allegorical stories behind which lies a lesson. The loop effect created by the video artist points, perhaps with a form of fatalism, to an inextricable situation, a vicious circle that verges on the absurd. The recurrence of certain selfish behaviours, certain patterns of domination, transcends borders. But the context of Afghanistan, before the Taliban took power, is the starting point for Mohammad Hadi Rahnaward’s reflections, whether they are initially political or philosophical.

There are no women in Show off. Through an off-screen game, the frames chosen by the artist reveal, if you look closely, the reverse side of contemporary history. By virtue of their frontality, they assert, beyond disappointed hopes and a bitter realisation, a sense of detachment.

Text by Henri Guette, art critic and curator, member of the Jeunes Critiques d’Art collective