Featured on OCULA Magazine: Hoda Afshar's Fragments of Reality - In Conversation with Susan Acret
Works such as Agonistes (2020), which includes video and photographic portraits, highlight human narratives through the testaments of whistleblowers from within Australian security industries, including its offshore detention system, youth detention facilities, intelligence services, and other state agencies.
In doing so, Afshar eulogises their bravery in speaking out, and precisely and poignantly throws a spotlight on the undocumented lives of their charges—refugees, teenage prisoners, and those whose consciences will not allow them to stay quiet.
Another video and photographic series, Remain (2018), also gives voice to the voiceless. The narrative tracks through the 'paradise' of beaches and jungles on Manus Island, where asylum seekers are held in Australian government immigration detention—one of whom is the writer and journalist Behrouz Boochani, who now resides in New Zealand.
Boochani famously penned his autobiographical account No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (2018) via WhatsApp messages, several hundred words at a time, to an editor in Melbourne. The book went on to win the 2019 Victorian Premier's Prize for Non-fiction.
Afshar's background as a documentary photographer informs in her visual art practice. For Afshar, documenting the seen is a powerful act, but illuminating the unseen, absent, or missing is the real art.
Whether making visible an anonymous Instagram protestor in Iran, or detailing the lives of detainees on Manus Island, Afshar's practice is about changing the narrative.
In co-opting the documentary genre, Afshar harnesses its truth-telling power while simultaneously telling another story—one that is often unspoken or at odds with what we are told by those in power.
Afshar is currently working on projects for The National 4: Australian Art Now (24 March–23 July 2023) in Sydney; Sharjah Biennial (15 February–11 June 2023); and the TarraWarra Biennial (1 April–16 July 2023) in Victoria, Australia.