Yalda Afsah: Curro

26 April–27 May 2023 

Residency space: Keithstraße 15, 10187 Berlin

Wednesday to Saturday 12–6pm

A series of cuts mark the uneasy climax of Yalda Afsah’s Curro, an exhibition culminating the inaugural Between Bridges residency. The show debuts the fifth installment in the Berlin-based artist’s series of films concerned with ritualised interaction between men and animals. She has dedicated her practice to these human-animal relationships since 2018. Conceived as an installation across two rooms, the film is split into parts which are displayed in a fence-like framing structure and viewable from a rounded bench both constructed for the space and reminiscent of the physical entrapment depicted in the film. The structure also resonates with the film’s title, a Galician term for fencing something in. While Curro’s snipping scenes could conjure a score of symbolic associations, it lands less as metaphor here than as the pinnacle of a brutal and domineering frenzy. A kind of literal power grab.

Where the Centaur-like state of symbiosis in traditional dressage or the razor edge between care and control in pigeon tumbling have figured in subsequent works in the series, Curro turns its attention to the violent bid for submission in a centuries-old Galician tradition in which men corral a herd of wild horses in order to trim their manes and tails. Afsah’s seemingly classical narrative arc from anticipation to act charts a taxonomy of gazes, as the viewer might become aware of themselves watching and waiting just as the men and adolescent onlookers do in the film. The ambivalence that permeates Afsah’s work more broadly emerges here in the tension between the crassness of the ritual and the way that she handles it visually and sonically. There’s something tactile in her approach—imagine her turning scenes over in her hands. She often draws out sounds of touch, amplifying the contact between horses pressing closer together, wind moving through leaves, or a boy etching marks into a tree. A subtle tool of reorientation, Afsah’s soundscape is emblematic of her intervention in the seemingly detached posture of the beholder. Her patient observation nods to the durational contemplation of James Benning, with whom she studied in Los Angeles. Ultimately, by excavating displays of hyper-masculinity and teenaged initiation into such performativity, Afsah questions where art sits on the axis between the violence of spectatorship and the generosity of paying attention. Looking is always troubled.

— Camila McHugh

Press on the exhibition:

Beate Scheder, Die Liebe zur Macht, taz, 20 May 2023 (DE)