From a conversation between Maria Kheirkhah and Predrag Pajdic, May 2008
PP Why The Psychology of Fear?
MK An intense climate of fear is all around us. We are constantly being told to be suspicious. We are afraid to go on trains and plains, because of daily news continuously reporting on terror. That word is embodied in our conscious as we hear it every single day in one way or another. So I guess for me the question is, why is there such a climate? Who are we supposed to be afraid of?
PP Do you know the answers?
MK I am not sure if I want to provide answers to these questions. Perhaps I don’t know the answers myself, so I question. I am embarking here on difficult issues in order to initiate a debate so that the beast in all its entirety and complexity is comprehended and put to rest. I want to dissect each part of it. I want to understand it. My ongoing project The Anatomy of Ignorance is all about that.
Through conceptually abstract work I often investigate intricate cultural and historical analogs, as well as realities in my contemporary social and political context. I question history. I inquire into historical particulars. What are the motivations here? I am seeking to understand the language, which is spoken to me. If one understands one does not fear.
PP In your new body of work you talk about the monster. Please explain.
MK I have decided to work with the idea of Frankenstein as the monster, drawing parallels with what is presently the subject and object of fear (the Islamic bodies and regions where they are located: the Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa), with the Middle East being the epicenter of it and the Muslim body being animated as the beast, primarily within a Western context. This object of fear I represent as the monster, the beast, constructed of different body parts, unpleasant and to be feared by the masses.
To me The Anatomy of Fear is about the apprehension of any other. In the past the others were the Jews, the blacks and now Muslims. Who will be next?
PP Where does Kheirkhah name come from? Do you consider yourself as the other?
MK I am Iranian. Kheirkhah is an Iranian name; you may also refer to it as a Muslim name. Do I consider myself as the other? I was born and brought up in Iran and then came to study in the UK in late 70’s. Since then I move back and forth between Iran and the UK. I am very familiar with my own complexities and myself as a being so I don't consider myself as the other. But then again it all depends on the company I am in. I could feel as the other at times.
mariakheirkhah, Iranian-British artist curator