Seeking Heaven


This is part of a series of ekphrastic poems presented alongside ‘Hyphenated’ at The Substation. ‘Seeking Heaven’ responds to Sofi Basseghi’s ‘Elusive Paradise’.

Seeking Heaven

And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms
swallows will make their nest.

‘Reborn’, Forugh Farrokhzad
translated from the Farsi by Sholeh Wolpé

This grass bed,
ringed by tussocks.
The snowmelt is receding.

Sweep of pebbles:
a broken wave,
milk-heavy breast.

A line of buried stones
punctuate the spine.
Dark mane, unbound.

Hands weighted
and open on emptied
sky-blue cloth, over full belly.

Press one ear to the ground—
storks cannot sing; can only clatter.


About the Artwork


Elusive Paradise
Video, mixed media installation
Dimensions variable

Exhibition Design and Installation: Ehsan Khoshnami
Performance: Michka Mansour and Nina Seyedi
Sound Design: Ai Yamamoto

Through my practice I have been following and seeking narratives relating to Iranian women. I have been especially interested in narratives of rebellion, against family expectations together with the rebellion against social, cultural and religious pressures. This work explores the manner in which women have resisted the former through an exhibition of defiance manifested by their appearance.

These women are from my own generation. They represent a generation born after the Islamic Revolution and during the Iran/Iraq war. They discuss the contradiction of being caught between wanting to live a non-conservative contemporary lifestyle yet being burdened by the need to have to accommodate their family’s traditional values. Failure in relationships and marriages are also on their conversational agenda. They also highlight how this generation is in a sexual limbo where women, unlike in previous generations, are now beginning to express their sexual desires. This is unmasked throughout the work by combining dreamlike imagery reminiscent of another era together with documentary footage.

Fabric features in my work to emphasize the contrasts and contradictions within Iranian society. Various clothing fabrics including the veil are used not only to conceal body parts but also as ethereal objects to tempt and reveal.

My work looks at the ways in which women have rebelled through their physical appearance and it observes both the positive and negative implications this has had on the female Iranian Identity. Michka and Nina share their experiences together with those of their acquaintances to paint a fragmented image of the contemporary woman where social pressures literally have distorted their natural appearance. As well, the myriad social pressures inflicted on women by both the same and opposite sexes have created multiplicities in their persona.

The video installation intends to illustrate the battle between traditional values, religious and superstitious belief systems in a fast-paced contemporary lifestyle by combining fact and fiction together with mythological and architectural elements informed by Persian culture.

This work was filmed in Iran and completed in Australia. It is also part of a larger body of work from my practice led PhD research at RMIT University.


About the Artist

Sofi Basseghi is an Australian/Iranian visual artist based in Melbourne. Her award winning films, photographs and video work have been extensively exhibited at acclaimed local and international venues and galleries including West Space, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.

She completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2007 at RMIT University and pursued further graduate studies in directing in 2011 at the VCA school of Film and Television. Basseghi is currently a PhD (Art) candidate at RMIT where her practice-based research uses photography, documentary and video art practices as tools to express narratives revealing an image of contemporary female Iranian rebellion. Her work is predominantly based on real and fictitious stories born of experiences arising from the complexities of the cultural, religious and social climate people find themselves in where her desire to cross inflicted boundaries and question cultural and traditional mores is evident.

Ehsan Khoshnami completed a Master of Architecture at RMIT University with a previous background in fine arts and design. He is the co-founder and principle of arKED Architects based in Melbourne.

In his architectural practice he is particularly interested in the historical marriage of art, architecture, culture and community and how these are manifested in a technological contemporary architectural design.

He has and is currently working on cross-cultural art and architectural projects both in Australia and Iran. Khoshnami has also designed numerous exhibition Installation designs in collaboration with International visual artist Sofi Basseghi.


Eileen Chong

Author: Eileen Chong

Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet. Her books are Burning Rice (2012), Peony (2014) and Painting Red Orchids (2016), all from Pitt Street Poetry. She has shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award 2012, the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2013 and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2017, among others. Her next book, Another Language (2017), is in the Braziller Series of Australian Poets with George Braziller in New York City.

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