Ali Mahdavi choosed to be on the side of Desire, to motivate through glamour the necessary thrive to transform to reach perfection.
His sophisticated approach to staging give birth to surprising portraits with the help of Dita Von Teese and artists such as Marilyn Manson or Kylie Minogue.
SABINE MORANDINI:You’ve got Iranian roots, but there is no eastern impact in your deeply western-influenced work…
ALI MAHDAVI :
This is kind of a recurring question… There are actually two reasons for that. The least of the two is that I don’t think an artist should be bound to it; what‘s more clichés are an easy trap… women warriors wearing chadors, terrorists… I have no interest in this, all the more that, as a child, I lived through revolution, war, and I have endeavoured to distance myself from all this in my creative work. I am not sure that artistic expression is the best way to defend ideas in this specific field. The second reason is that the interior world is what really tickles my fancy, fantasy, and the unconscious. There isn’t really any space for all the eastern folklore, but in a way, the Iranian influence pops up in my approach which is often more exuberant and baroque than the more classic vision, even minimal, advocated in western art, my universe can sometimes be excessive, with a touch of the flashy style so typically eastern.
SM : What hides behind this glamour-at-all-cost side?
AM : It’s the result of an intense relationship with my mother, the fascination I had for her as a child. It’s both a tribute and a setting of scores: with me glamour is sardonic and neurotic. It hides something else too: growing from a child to a teenager, I was really obese. I went on diets and lost weight as I always had this fantasy of the ideal body because the power of beauty became obvious to me quite early. Then I got Alopecia Areata (spot baldness) and, with the best of will, there was nothing I could do about that. I could certainly no longer aspire to conventional beauty.
I think that using glamour by staging it on others is a way to recreate this ideal and to live it by proxy.
SM : What is in fact the life of a dandy in 2007? Is it within anyone’s reach ?
AM : I don’t see myself as a dandy. When you’re a dandy or an eccentric, it’s part of your daily life. As for me, I rather try to go unnoticed during the day. The dandies I know, like Mr Pearl, have just one side to their personality, they remains themselves all day long; I sometimes put an act on, but it’s more of a game really.
In 2007, dandyism is quite rare; it’s more a lower middle class era. Being a dandy requires a lot of courage and involvement, which often generates rejection and lack of understanding, it’s a very individual approach, with real sacrifices and very hard to take on.
SM : What’s your fetish?
AM : I rather have obsessions, feminine women both sophisticated and very neurotic. The idea of transformation, modifying the body, and sublimation fascinates me. It remains extremely attractive to me because it’s all linked to willpower. I’m still fascinated by the thought that someone plain, ugly even, can make oneself beautiful by sheer work, obstinacy and determination. The word fetishism often comes back in relation to my work because of the idea of suffering, but it’s not linked to pleasure and pain from a sexual angle, even if certain codes tally, my approach is not the same. What fascinate me are the constraints and sufferings that one can inflict to oneself, not in a sensual search but to reach an ideal of beauty. I am nevertheless very moved by Pierre Molinier’s work, for he had a real artistic and aesthetic word sense. Apart from that, I often find today’s images of fetishism, sado-masochism mixed with gothic, rather ugly, unsophisticated and a kind of caricature. It’s often a mere illusion of subversion, while these are only codes and group or clan conventions, bearing little more interest than a banker’s outfit. There is absolutely no real personal research.
SM : Do you feel like a chrysalis or a butterfly?
AM : I am a chrysalis that would have liked to become a butterfly but turned into something else!
Maybe it’s just as well as once a chrysalis becomes a butterfly it dies rather quickly. It’s like the ugly duckling that wished to become a duck and finally turned into a swan. In the end, it might be better that whatever destiny one had in mind didn’t materialize and that the unexpected happened.
SM : What do you listen to?
AM : I have a passion for real disco, soul music, Larry Levin, Lolita Holloway or Thelma Houston, Madeleen Kane… This music carries some kind of despair that can only be appeased through oblivion and dizziness found in dancing and partying. I also very much like the « glamour » singers: Dina Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Peggy Lee… But films are more important to me.
SM : Your greatest encounter?
AM : Surprising as it may be, it wasn’t a star, it’s a friendly/loving encounter, which has been lasting for a very long time despite the unavoidable changes in life: Elisabeth Guers is a friend who designs shoes with great skill. I met her at Thierry Mugler’s in 92, we have developed a powerful and unique bond ever since.
SM : What fascinates you?
AM : Often something that creates a very strong emotion that I don’t always manage to understand or analyze, and that revolves around beauty, desire, anguish, dream, and questions when facing death. That’s what withstands thought and analysis, when something still remains to be discovered.
SM : Your projects?
AM : The most important one is a feature film I started to write.
Dita by Suzanne Aichinger & Ali Mahdavi
Salon Rose by Ali Mahdavi