Abbas Zahedi: Holding a Heart in Artifice review

When art and emptiness collide

Abbas Zahedi: Holding a Heart in Artifice review

Holding a Heart in Artifice at the Nottingham Contemporary exhibition has left a strong impression on its visitors, evoking a range of reactions and interpretations. While some viewers may have found themselves disoriented by the absence of traditional artworks, others have embraced the conceptual approach of London artist Abbas Zahedi.

For me, it proved to be a bewildering and unsatisfying experience, leaving much to be desired. Upon entering the exhibition, I was immediately struck by a disconcerting sense of emptiness. The absence of any discernible artworks or cohesive visual elements was perplexing, leading to a profound sense of disorientation. Were they still building the exhibition?

Apparently not. Instead, visitors are left to navigate through the space, where the exhibition seems to be nothing more than a mirage. 

Around the perimeter of the gallery, Zahedi has positioned several steel works. Stretching from wall to floor, these industrial forms are said to not only "strengthen the gallery against external pressures, but conceptually function like cardiac stents, which hold arteries open allowing blood to flow around the body." Yet, as fellow attendees aimlessly roamed around, attempting to feign admiration for the incomprehensible display, it becomes apparent that we were all lost in a vast expanse of artistic pretence. The lack of guidance or discernible clues leaves one challenging the very nature of this exhibition.

In a feeble attempt to salvage some semblance of meaning, a conspicuously ominous green button stands as a token of hope amidst the artistic abyss. A modified "PRESS TO EXIT"– Zahedi’s reference from his previous projects.


Confused as to whether the button was truly meant to be pressed, I received a warning from another person of the noise being deafeningly loud and reminiscent of whale noises. 

Indeed, upon pressing the 'PRESS TO EXIT' button, I was met with a cacophony of noise, and the ambiguous remarks proved to be an accurate warning. Yet, this auditory assault only furthers the disappointment and confusion that permeates the entire experience, like waiting for a beat drop that simply never arrives. Far from the profound spiritual journey promised, it feels as though we have been subjected to a symphony of disappointment.

Ultimately, Holding a Heart in Artifice fails to deliver its promises. Instead of offering, well, really, anything; it presents a hollow emptiness, totally devoid of purpose. It appears this exhibition was a wasted endeavour, leading to a dismal rating reflecting the profound disappointment and utter lack of fulfilment experienced.

I can only hope that Nottingham Contemporary swiftly replaces this artistic vacuum with a more substantive and engaging display, offering respite to those eager for genuine creative stimulation.

Header Image Credit: Nottingham Contemporary


Elle Farrell-Kingsley

Elle Farrell-Kingsley Kickstart Team

An experienced journalist, presenter, editor, and author, Elle is a passionate advocate for youth policymaking, AI ethics, and interdisciplinary approaches. Elle has been recognised for her reporting on emerging technologies and their social impact, earning accolades such as a funded place on the Sustainable Finance for Journalists programme at the University of Oxford and the prestigious John Schofield Fellowship with a mentor from BBC World News, where she is undergoing specialised training in broadcast media.

With a humanities and social sciences background, she offers a unique perspective that encourages readers to explore the intersection of arts, technology, policy, and society.

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