Abbas Akhavan: Study for a Garden

4 out of 5 stars
Delfina Foundation, Abbas Akhavan, Study for a Garden, 9 October - 20 November 2012.jpg
Courtesy Abbas Akhavan and Delfina Foundation. Photo by Christa Holka Abbas Akhavan, Variations on a Garden

Step inside and the outside follows you into this abandoned house, once a missionary school for the Girl Crusaders' Union. Like a site of disaster or neglect, nature has been left to take over, with ivy growing through the carpets and a row of trees blocking the entrance hall. A nasty drip from the ceiling seems to be ruining the carpet too, but a closer look at any of these seemingly haphazard phenomena reveals an artfully guiding hand at work and at least a few green-fingered thumbprints.

The Toronto-based Iranian artist Abbas Akhavan also orchestrates gently subversive encounters with a sprinkler and a table covered in one tonne of soil across the three floors of this soon-to-be-renovated centre for primarily Middle Eastern artists' exhibitions and residencies.

His seemingly accidental 'Leak' is really an ingenious fountain circulating water around a system of pipes that recalls both the scene of a torturous water-boarding session and the lackadaisical sanitation found in student digs. Each interior has its own urban and urbane garden feature – the sprinkler endlessly spitting up on the lino and yet protecting its floorboards from intruders; the ivy reclaiming another room and merging with the foliage found in the original furnishings.

In the basement, an air of menace accompanies the musky 'Dirt/Table', covered in roughly enough manure to bury someone or at the very least to spoil any attempts at a civilised dinner party. The overall impression is of an unspoiled interior that's been subtly soiled by an elemental passer-through.


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