In the series American Rhapsody, Farazollahi shows mug shots organized into a grid, drawing on abstract painting as well as documentary. The large formats and strict geometric composition reminds us of minimalist art and modernism. Farazollahi found the mug shots on the internet, including personal data, published there by American police. The fact that this was prior to conviction makes it a textbook example of how photography is used to control members of society. This links American Rhapsody to ideas developed by Michel Foucault in his seminal work Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison) from 1975. A central theme in this book is how the panopticon, as a technology of surveillance, established a new relation of power between the observer and the observed subject. In that perspective, archived pictures of prisoners and criminals become part of the state’s categorization of the body. The relations of power between the body and different political institutions represents a body technology.
Farazollahi takes these public mug shots and puts them into an artistic context. At the same time, he anonymizes the subjects and their alleged crimes. Nevertheless, the series confronts us with both the practice of the American police and the artist’s theft and appropriation of the pictures. This opens up a space for ethical reflection. American Rhapsody can also be associated with Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men (1964), where he covered the façade of the New York State Pavilion with blown-up mug shots of the 13 most wanted men in the United States at the time. Just like Warhol, Farazollahi blurs the division between the private and public, between art and politics.
Ida Sannes Hansen , Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum
American Rhapsody #5 C-Print 100×90 cm
American Rhapsody #6 C-Print 100×90 cm
American Rhapsody #7 C-Print 100×90 cm