Katayoun Amjadi

Garden: Recalling Paradise

Nervous System, 2019
video projection, cast porcelain, gold luster
50” x 50” x 12”

Nervous System is a ceramic, video, and audio installation consisting of a floor projection of a single aerial view of a toilet bowl. Inside the bowl swim two goldfish. The video is set on a loop, and the fish circle without end. Ceramic ewers with golden spouts surround the projected image. In the background is the sound of a toilet flushing at random intervals, echoing in the space. 

This bowl flickers with the movement of the two goldfish, trapped in the still water, circling and probing the edge. One pushes sideways along the shallow shelf as if to beach itself or climb from the bowl into the light The other ducks repeatedly into the deeper recess and protection of the bowl’s throat, and into the darkness..Occasionally their bodies circle, head to tail, tracing a very improbable yin and yang. It is both peaceful and disquieting, as if dread is hidden in the fold of serenity.

With the sound of the rushing vacuum of a toilet flushing, you look to the safety of the fish. Still there. Still trapped. Still, you know, this isn’t what it seems.

Nervous System is a meditation on bearing witness to an impending rupture, yet one that is too distant for you to act. Your agency is removed, and you become an impotent observer, presented with the anxiety and dread of watching something beyond your power to change. You are not the fish, but can feel the fragile state, the vulnerability within the protective sphere, as the sphere becomes the state, the cause of disruption and failure.

Ewers stand like solders in a protective ring, backs to the bowl, gold arms like gun barrels at the ready. Empty vessels resolute and singular in their duty to shield this spring, this life, but what flickers there is a thin wave of light over barren ground, a memory of what once was, perhaps a dream. Water, if at all, exists in your ears, fills your head, rinses clean and washes away with each repeated flush, erasing any hope you had for the fish or a life brimming.

The Garden, 2019
ceramics, audio and video installation at Katherine E. Nash Gallery

The Garden strictly seen, is a collection of objects, gathered from disparate times and places, yet ready to hand and familiar, and common in the world of their origin. Some carry with them their use and histories, and their muted voices of daily ritual cleansing, largely hidden from view, as required by the proscriptions of cultural etiquette, while at the same time indicating a more profound ethnic and cultural cleansing, as if an existential component of “being soiled”. 

The Garden is the myth turned on its head, and proposes an alternate view: alluring, tempting, beautiful, fruitful, yet very nearly dead, with its “heart… swollen under the sun”. It proposes that the project of democracy is an idea not a promise: mutable, fragile, and at this moment, hanging by a thread.

Rootwash, 2019

It’s the Fishes’ Problem, 2019

Toilet Brush, 2019
16 1/2” x 4” x 4”
porcelain, gold luster, gear motor

To cleanse, wash out, scrub, whiten, blanch, purge, sanitize, absolve, clarify, disinfect, sterilize, launder, bleach, decolorize, rinse, purify, suppress, vindicate, refine, depurate, release, liberate, restore, lustrate, and shine.