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The exhibition NUMBER 207 positions the artist Reza Aramesh’s new body of marble sculptures – which like many of his artworks are based on accumulation of Actions – in a crucial dialogue with its site, the San Fantin church in San Marco, its church paintings, and the context of punishment and reformation. The exhibition title NUMBER 207 is a reference to the Actions series and the artist’s ongoing process. The numbers here point towards the unending and iterative sequence within which we all become. In the modern world, every person lives in quotidian reality as a citizen, as stateless, or as a refugee, in which they are assigned a unique number within the nation, border, or institution. In their all-encompassing and universal nature, numbers and their use in state institutions remind us of philosopher Michel Foucault who wrote about “a trace of torture in modern mechanisms of criminal justice” where citizens, refugees and the stateless are subjected in a state of permanent surveillance.

The exhibition NUMBER 207 is further inspired by the numerology of Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who among other Greeks believed that “everything is a number” and that numbers are symbolic concepts that reflect the universe rather than mere points of enumeration along a line. Under Pythagoras’ logic, the number two or the dyad is understood to reflect attraction and separation. Some of the concepts that are named in his theorem include desire, tension, anguish, love, and being. Pythagoras described in theological terms the symbolic concepts behind the monad as “the origin of the One,” intelligence, and good, and the dyad as “a deity and the evil.” Similarly, the number five or the pentad was understood by the Greeks as the symbol of life. When brought together these numerological concepts behind the numbers two and five which when combined add up to seven, and then nine, reflect the deeper concerns of this exhibition in addressing the dispossession of Eastern, Asian, African prisoners in Western and Euro-American borders. The San Fantin church in San Marco, Venice, itself provides not just a context for the exhibition NUMBER 207, but also artworks among which are paintings and sculptures that date back to the 17th century. San Fantin is: “a parish church in the sestiere of San Marco, near which was the meeting place of the Confraternity of San Girolamo and Santa Maria della Guistizia, called the Company of San Fantin. Members of the Company performed the pious work of accompanying condemned criminals to their execution.” (Cecelia Ferrazzi, 1996, pp 82) This historical detail about the Company of San Fantin relates directly to the artist Reza Aramesh’s interest in images of torture and punishment of present-day prisoners, many of whom are of non-European background.

The Company of San Fantin associated with the church of San Fantin is described by 17th century Venetian Cecelia Ferrazzi’s memoir as follows: “a number of people twenty or thirty, dressed in black like the Company of San Fantin, who carried a crucifix as large as a man, and laying it on the ground, they sang over it.” (Ferrazzi, pp 25) While execution as punishment was considered as lawful under laws of 1600s Italy, this context also speaks to the artworks housed inside the church, which reveal a further detailing of the history of the Venetian region of Italy, the Catholic church, and its relationship with the reformation and regional neighbors like the Ottoman empire and Turkey. The histories of punishment, and of execution, intersect with those of the reformation and its turmoil of mass exodus. These histories of the church therefore are consistent within the exhibition NUMBER 207 as the marble sculptures in the exhibition take inspiration from and extend the Italian and Spanish painting traditions of the Reformation era and beyond.

Described by one critic in Artforum as “civic memorials or monuments,” artist Reza Aramesh’s marble sculptures will be positioned in dialogue with the ecclesiastical architecture (the San Fantin church was first built in the 10th century but its present form dates back to the 16th century) and its altars, paintings, and acoustic environment. The new body of monochromatic marble sculptures both respond to this ecclesiastical environment, and take inspiration from the element of ‘torture’ in modern mechanisms of criminal justice – described by Foucault – by depicting the choreography of stripping prisoners.


The 60th International Art Exhibition of the Venice biennale, “Foreigners Everywhere” named after 2006 artwork Stranieri Ovunque by the artist collective Claire Fontaine reminds us in the wake of colonial modernity of the condition of the stranger. In this sense, this edition of the bienniale also remind us of the Biblical statement that “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35). Similarly, the exhibition NUMBER 207 directly engages with the thematic of “artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporic, émigrés, exiled, and refugees—especially those who have moved between the Global South and the Global North.” Responding independently to this curatorial mandate, we can argue that the artist Reza Aramesh has experienced estrangement having been born in Iran and migrating to the UK during the 1980s where he attended art school. Where “Foreigners Everywhere” aims to address the “outlawed” and the “persecuted”, the artist highlights the experiences of those who have been tortured, castigated, or othered. Both the curator Serubiri Moses and the artist Reza Aramesh identify as “foreigners”. By working with images of prisoners who are mostly “strangers” in the Western world to build his sculptures, artist Reza Aramesh continues his quest for the uplift and the humanization of the dispossessed.

Serubiri Moses - Curator

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