Speaking to Support Structures: Abbas Zahedi
I would define my community as the people and places with whom I can be in dialogue.
Artist Abbas Zahedi offers insight into the centrality of invitation and dialogue to his practice.
Support Structures for Support Structures is a fellowship which nurtures London-based artists and collectives working with spatial, social and community practices. Initiated with Sumayya Vally – architect of the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 – the programme offers financial support and mentorship, and forms a supportive network of peers.
For this series, we asked each of the fellows in the 2021 Support Structures cohort to reflect on their work in the context of community. Exploring the relationships between individual and shared histories, artist Abbas Zahedi often initiates projects with people who have lived experience of social injustice and generational trauma. Here, Zahedi discusses opening up conversations between the personal and the collective in his interdisciplinary work.
How do you navigate personal and collective work?
I am collaborative by nature: I consider ways to involve others, together with spaces, histories, ideas, and materials, in ways that feel meaningful and sensitive to the work. This means I can end up in somewhat unexpected settings. To help navigate this, I try to imagine myself as the guest I wish to host via my work and make myself vulnerable to a working process; establishing a space where I can feel, think, fail, and enact experiments. I try to relay these complexities in a manner that feels open to feedback and change, acknowledging the collective within the personal and vice versa.
How do you define community?
However difficult to pinpoint, I would define my community as the people and places with whom I can be in dialogue. This is not necessarily a direct communication through words or language. For me, dialogue means finding a sense of exchange which can help to demonstrate the ways in which my own experience is both rich and limited, whilst also acknowledging the realities of others. In this way, I believe that communities can be fluid and time-bound. They can be ways of holding space together, to honour our need for collective strength, which also gives us the support we require for our own individual journeys.