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Hunt, A., 2022.

Behrang Karimi Rotpeter: 'Bild eines zur Dressur gezwungenen'

Output Type:Exhibition
Venue:Moon Grove
Dates:20/5/2022 - 15/7/2022

For Moon Grove's inaugural exhibition, the artist Behrang Karimi has been invited to produce a series of work for the gallery's intimate domestic location.

A central theme to this project is the Karimi's identification with Rotpeter, the ape in Franz Kafka's 'A Report to an Academy'. The story describes the German writer's character, named by his captors after a bullet mark on his cheek, who learns to behave like a human, and subsequently presents to a scientific conference the story of how he effected his transformation. He tells of his former life in a West African jungle, in which a hunting expedition shoots and captures him. Throughout the story, the narrator reiterates that he learned his behaviour not out of any desire to be human, but only to provide himself with a means of escape from his cage.

With the exhibition titled 'Rotpeter: Bild eines zur Dressur gezwungenen' - which translates in English to 'Red Peter: 'Picture of one forced to dress' - Karimi employs a similar Kafkaesque narrative to dwell on his own history and sense of adaptation and conversion. Outlined in part through the artist's fragmented text 'Father' (shown below, which starts in German and ends in English), Karimi hints at his passage from a child in Iran to an adult painter in Germany, to being asked to make an exhibition in a private house in Manchester.

Other literary references in Karimi's drawings and paintings come closer to Manchester via a specific homage to one of the city's famous sons, the writer Anthony Burgess. Burgess' identity as a British outsider with a semi-tragic life - the writer also came to success late - chimes with Karimi's own position as a late-bloomer. Again, in the artist's text 'Father', 'Nadsat' - the language, fictional register or argot used by the teenage gang members in Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange - is utilised by Karimi in connection with an analogues contemporary fear of fascism and moral turpitude that led Burgess to write his text.

Other references to historical writing by Dante and Goethe are evident alongside Karimi's interest in Greek myth connected to chaos, pain and the beauty of destruction, again in place of extreme categories of moral certainty, which often lead to a lack of questioning and disinterested thought. Karimi has said: 'It is important to create a counterpoint to the standard moral cages that we create for ourselves, similar to those represented by Rotpeter's captors and the ape's obedient and compliant psyche. Does progressive criticism exist anymore? Who is in the cage, and who is on the outside?'

In terms of ideas around nationalism, Burgess, whose experience in Malaysia formed an anti-national trait in the writer, Karimi has firmly asserted his position alongside Burgess and Kafka. He has said that he doesn't feel like he belongs to any country: neither Iran, where he was born, nor Germany where he currently resides, or the UK and Manchester, where his work is currently being shown. Instead, like the two writers he loves, Karimi belongs to, or is a citizen of music, literature and art, with no affiliation to any specific place or political regime.

Behrang Karimi was born in 1980 in Schiraz, Iran and lives and works in Cologne, Germany.