Koushna Navabi’s Fragments series began with a collection of old coffee table books featuring photographs of Iran, where Navabi was born. These books, mostly printed in the 70s and 80s and gifted to her over the years by well-meaning friends, sparked a kind of anxiety, not only because of the past they recalled, but because they seemed to impose a specific and limiting sense of origin and identity, as if we are defined by the place of our birth. Navabi was born in Tehran and left in 1979 after the revolution; though she completed her studies in London, living in Los Angeles for a time before returning to the UK, these images still exerted an emotional hold over her. The abstract emotional pull of ‘heritage’ persisted, despite the physical and temporal distance from the country these books illustrated, preventing her from discarding them. Instead, Navabi deconstructed them, carefully cutting out photographs of ancient Persian sites such as the rock reliefs of Taqh-e Bustan and the grand ruins of the Persepolis Apadana, overlaying them with delicately rendered drawings of strange reproductive organs. The irony is that the images in these books do not depict the Iran of her childhood, but one that existed even further in the past. In repurposing these images Navabi travels back, both in time and space, superimposing fragments of the body on fragments of books, which in turn depict the fragments of a civilization long gone.

Koushna Navabi, Fragments series, 2020