Babak Golkar’s concept-driven artistic practice extends effortlessly across diverse medium, ranging from drawing, video, sculpture and site-specific installation while maintaining focus in its subjects and issues addressed. His work primarily explores the psychological effects on the observer resulting from the use of architecture.
Golkar sees architectural structures as psychological spaces, not just physical ones. His use of architecture as a visual language in his works revolves around his interest in “affecting” the observer. In a conversation with Babak, he explained that through architecture he is able to reflect on interrelated notions of movement, control, affect and memory. “It is all about what a piece does to an observer, as opposed to what it means or any other preconceived notions of art,” he states.
Architectural structures in Golkar’s work function like triggers that create psychological spaces from the viewer’s imaginary into his consciousness, or semotically speaking, act as a signifier to a signified that exists beyond the immediate object of observation, be it an elusive space or a collective of images/spatial histories/realities/imaginaries that exist in the viewer’s psyche, an ethereal plane.
Despite the complex use of architecture in his work, Golkar still references the most basic artistic traditions like illusion, distortion, and figure/ground relationship. The clever use of scale in the works and their intervention with physical space manipulates the figure/ground relationship of the observers and causes the mind to be in a constant state of flux, attempting to resituate itself in relation to both the work and the space it is in. Subsequently, the relation of the body to the work becomes dynamic, causing the observer to mentally and physically navigate their surroundings using architecture as a grid for movement through space. The observer’s role in turn changes to become that of a subject to the work itself. Thus, through the elegant use of architectural references, Golkar shifts the conceptual framework and perspective by reversing the roles of the subject and the object of his works thus tempting the observer to view things from different perspectives and find new meanings to ‘not so new’ realities.
When viewing Negotiating Space for Possible Co-existance for example, the observer imagines himself one moment surrounded by tall stark white structures in a miniature city where carpet is earth, evoking foreign narratives and feelings in the observer’s consciousness. Then, the next moment they are snapped back into the reality of the gallery space as a spectator. The spatial awareness suddenly becomes a contested space between real and illusion in the same way that the white architectural structures themselves appear and reappear depending on the angle they are viewed. If viewed from above, they collapse into the patterns of the carpet and switch from three dimensional structures to two dimensional patterns, causing the viewer to question their very existence and subsequently their own. The opposite of this also happens in From God to Malevich where the cubes alternate between flatness and three-dimensionality as the observers reposition themselves in relation to it, urging them to be consciously aware of their own positioning both physically and mentally. This tension between spatial and mental spaces, and the psychological effects they have on observers, is what Golkar seeks out and identifies as the main catalyst behind our awareness of the space and world around us.
Similarly, architecture is used in his L.C. Series to evoke, de-contextualise and de-stabilise histories. Based on the designs of Le Corbusier’s drawings for the Olympique Stadium in Baghdad, the L.C. Derivates are a scaled down version of the designs which resemble torture devices Therefore, while attempting to retain architectural aesthetics and techniques, they also produce an eerie feeling which forces the viewer to question and alter their state of perception.
Moreover, architecture acts as a tool of consciousness and memory in Recollections. Recollections is an ongoing drawing project, which is drawn by memorizing architectural spaces These techniques refer back to the psychological aspects of architecture and, in turn, become the contextual framework for the drawings.
Much like the Bauhaus before him, Golkar’s use of architecture as a visual language pushes art further into the cross-cultural realm. He explains that architecture is embedded in every culture, it is an international language that is always relevant and all can relate to. Golkar’s works do not represent a case of East vs. West. On the contrary, the juxtaposition of modern architectural structures and Middle Eastern references pose the questions of possible coexistence without concluding the argument. They promote an open ended conversation where the observer’s own projected subjectivity interacts with the work’s embedded subjectivity resulting in limitless scenarios of possible co-existence, not just between cultural dichotomies, but also between physical and psychological spaces.