Bahar Behbahani: Saffron Tea, 2008. Video, 12:00 min, image courtesy the artist and OtherIS.
In both her paintings and video works, Bahar Behbahani addresses volatility of references to a specific place — since her work is autobiographical, this place is Iran of her experience — but personal memories are continuously reconfigured, and inserted back into the in history of the place which is remembered, via artistic practice, which serves as distancing device and as lens though which these deep feelings of displacement and longing can be conveyed. In Saffron Tea, as she is submerged in a large water tank, we see her, suffocating in the water; but we also see what she sees from this confinement, through the water ripples and mnemonic distortions — a well-appointed living room, with shimmering warm light, fruit and crystal, and elderly women fanning themselves in summer’s heat. Incongruity of this divided vision is emphasized by cool empty space in which the water tank is placed, a kind of capsule of existence, which is self-contained.