Leila Pazooki’s take on this project as a combination of the artistic and the sociological is revealed by its contradictory title. Can there be an aesthetic value in an iconoclastic intervention? What happens to beauty when the logic behind censorship is to conceal and detract, as historically authority has used it to prevent freedom of thought and creativity? Think of Trotsky, erased from the official photos of the Stalinist regime or of Michelangelo’s nudes in the Sistine Chapel, covered over until the 1980’s.
Unlike a complete ban, the aim of a retouch is to soften the taboo image, making it acceptable to be viewed. Those creators of the images on display have been driven by this ambiguous intention. The piece consists of a number of reproductions of works of Western art: extracts from books from the library of the University of Fine Art in Tehran, where Leila Pazooki studied painting. It was between 2004 and 2008 during various trips to her native town that she secretly collected the pictures, amongst them Nymphs of the Spring by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Edouard Manet’s Olympia and Ingres’ Violin by Man Ray. The censorship is sometimes brutal here, or awkward where the flat translucent areas of coloured gouache render the “embarrassing” elements of the artwork more obvious and desirable.
Whether it is applied to images from journalism or art, censorship provides a marker for a society’s values, aspirations and taboos. In the sound piece that accompanies the photographs Leila Pazooki gives a voice to an authorized censor, revealing the ideological motivation behind the piece but also the aesthetic choices and techniques that guide these subjective “reworkings”.
And the displacement of these found images effectively puts their status into question, challenging museum conventions and the concept of originality in art. Removed from their political and religious context, these documents become iconic when the artist mounts them in antique gold frames . It is only then, that these images that have been reproduced a thousand times, reveal their unique and singular craftsmanship, as if this gesture was no longer destructive but rather creative.
Translated by Theodora Taylor.
 In 1953 Robert Rauschenberg made a similarly radical gesture in his Erased de Kooning Drawing in which he erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning. To accompany this appropriation/homage, Rauschenberg inscribed the title of the work by hand on a sheet of paper, which he mounted in a gold frame.