These Monsters are Real
The title of a 7” record by riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy, “These Monsters are Real” conjures feelings of anxiety, fear and panic. While the reference to monsters elicits the realm of fiction and fantasy, the insistence on their realness re-centers experiences of horror and trauma, summoning images of mutated and abject beings.
Monitor 11 takes this title as its starting point and asks that we claim a space for the imaginary and the make-believe that can emerge from and entangle with the most monstrous acts, which have become a part of our everyday reality. We began with these questions: How does trauma haunt us? How do we build fictions that tell the stories of our lived realities? And finally, how do we fantasize our way out?
The films offer us various spaces through which to reflect on these questions, from the local and national, to the organic and natural, as well as the imaginary and extraterrestrial. Rather than being the backdrop to the action, these spaces take centre stage, emerging as threats, mutations and sometimes, anthropomorphic fantasies. The program deconstructs reality while oversaturating it with possibilities. Reflecting on the increasing social anxieties about environmental catastrophes, current geopolitical crises, and global tragedies, the films generate a fertile ground for meditation and hope through fantasy, humour and parody.
The dismantling of icons is echoed in Tala Madani’s stop-motion animation Apple Tree. A reflection on the kinds of control and pain cliches of masculinity inflict on the body, Madani offers a darkly comic response to the playfulness, perversity, and at times, violence of gender performance. In Eye Stabber, Madani takes surveillance as her subject to ridicule. Whilst the figures that appear in Madani’s work are stereotypical, iconic and loaded with associations, the activities in which they are engaged are strange and absurd causing them to oscillate between self-assurance and humiliation.
In Weapons of Mass Destruction, Payal Kapadia paints an apocalyptic image of 21st century agricultural practices. Here, it is food—the very essence of life—which is the culprit of acts of mass destruction. The film tracks the evolution of certain foods from mythological and sacred to mechanically produced and genetically modified. The real life exploding watermelons, which appeared throughout Asia as a result of growth hormones, are shown here bombarding the collage-constructed urban landscape.
Azar Mahmoudian is an independent curator and researcher based in Tehran. She has curated exhibitions and screenings for Cultuurcentrum Bruges, Belgium; Contemporary Art Brussels; SOAS, University of London; Blackwood Gallery, Toronto; and was a 2014 Fellow of Global Art Forum 8, Dubai. She currently works as a lecturer in Tehran universities and collaborates with a project-space in Tehran.
Leila Pourtavaf is a Toronto-based writer, independent curator and doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. She was a founding member and coordinator of the projet Mobilivre– Bookmobile project, and editor of The Bookmobile Book (2015) which chronicles the project’s history. She is also the editor of Féminismes Électriques (2012), a bilingual collection of essays which reflect on the last decade of feminist art production.