Tara Fatehi Irani, Guest Editor

An  image of an iranian mother and child, the artist's family, before rocks in a desert landscape.

Tara Fatehi Irani, Mishandled Archive, day 359, ‘Madonna of the Rocks’, 2017


In Autumn 2020, LADA published Mishandled Archive, an "endlessly reflexive record of a year long performance ... [speaking to] diasporic experience, displacement and new modes of what might be called belonging" (Tim Etchells). Marking the publication of Mishandled Archive, Unbound has invited Tara to be our guest editor for January 2021.


[with closed eyes]

We say, ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’.

They say, …


Tara has offered this text, guiding the reader on a fal through Unbound, turning to some of our titles to ask for guidance, direction and a remedy for uncertainty. These titles will be on sale until mid-February.

Shop Tara's Shelf


It’s now early 2021. I’m sitting in a bubble floating in the sky and at any moment my bubble might hit a building or a bird or a needle ... and explode … and I’ll fall buttdown on a pavement or in a forest but most probably a pavement. So much ‘Don’t know what’ll happen’, so much ‘What are we to do?’ in the air these days.

Iranians have a remedy for times of uncertainty, for when they don’t know what they should do, when they have a dilemma or when they’re about to start a new thing – like a new year – and they need transcendental guidance. They take fal-e Hafez. If I were to translate fal-e Hafez, it would be something like ‘Hafez Fortune Telling’ but this is not at all a good translation. So let me unpack this briefly: Hafez is the most popular Iranian poet amongst Iranians – he lived in the 14th century and wrote many ghazals which are poems on love, separation, reunion and the pain of it all. His major book is a collection of ghazals known as Divan-e Hafez. This book is in every Iranian’s home – when I recently told my family that I don’t have a Hafez at home, they were shocked, disappointed and almost offended. Anyway, to take a fal-e Hafez you would:

hold the Divan [the book, not the bed], its spine held by both your hands and the pages facing you. Set an intention in your mind – this is normally a question you want answered – and ask Hafez to guide you on what to do – for this stage you might even close your eyes. Then gently rub your fingers on the pages of the top edge trying to get a feel for which page has the answer to your problem. Slowly slide your fingers amongst the pages and open the book. First poem on the right-hand page is your fal. Read it and interpret it. The meaning is not always immediately evident. The interpretation, however subjective, becomes an art in itself.

When there was no pandemic and I could go to LADA, go to the Study Room or look at Unbound books in person, I would usually take a fal: randomly run my fingers through the shelves, get out a book and randomly open that to a page and spend some time with it. O’ touching random books with unsanitised hands.

But a good guest editor should not suggest a random list of books, should she? The books I’m listing here are carefully chosen – not by fal – along the intentionally ambiguous line of ‘Publications we need to see more of’. I’ve then taken a fal from each of them. Don’t you worry, I’ve set a joint intention on behalf of us all. I’ve asked the authors and editors of these wondrous books to tell me ‘What the hell is going to happen?’ and ‘What the hell are we to do?’. I’ve then ran my fingers along their pages to find our fal – alternatively where I didn’t have the book, I’ve asked friends to take the fal on my behalf. Here, I’ve extracted what I feel is the heart of the authors’ response – I will leave the interpretation to you. 


[with closed eyes]

We say, ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’.

They say, …



Mishandled Archive* – Tara Fatehi Irani


19 °C

#dance: My fingers move gently in the air with the sound of the water. Perhaps similar to playing a soft harp. I raise my arms as I move the fingers: left goes further away from my body and to the left. Right is further out to the right. A bit like putting a spell on the waterfall statue… #IPutASpellOnYou #siteresponsive’ (p. 82)

* I’ve been invited to be Unbound guest editor on the occasion of the publication of this book. Call it cheeky or not, it’s kicking off the list. Mishandled Archive is made with the hope that it will move its readers – emotionally, conceptually and physically – in their bedroom, their house, or down the street. With 365 dance scores, there’s bound to be one that moves you. Ehem … there goes my plug.



re.act feminism: a performing archive* – Bettina Knaup and Beatrice Ellen Stammer (eds)

‘Irigaray: “The community will be composed of relations-between,

and not of one + one + one.”

Wait-with an act of political love,

Wait-with an action,

Wait-with a meditation,

Wait-with open space between actions,

Wait-with a space of resistance,

in this room, 

in this moment …’ (p. 74)


[From Faith Wilding, Wait-With, Unpublished manuscript found in Bettina Knaup’s Telling Stories Differently]

* Read this book in conjunction with the incredibly rich re.act feminism website.


The Bodies that Remain – Emmy Beber (ed)

‘Faces made for mouthwash commercials,

each around for long enough to sing,

“It’s black! It’s white!”

before morphing into other faces

made for shampoo commercials.

Nobody saw Michael Jackson morph

into any of these faces

but it seems possible.’ (p. 34)


[from David Rule, Be Michael Jackson]



Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh – Adrian Heathfield and Tehching Hsieh

‘Time clock to be punched 8,760 times for a period of one year…

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January …’ (p.107)


After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life – Joshua Chambers-Letson

‘It is a lot for one body to bear this kind of burden, but in performance the burden is shared out amongst the many ...

(a brown woman) reaches to attain (and fails spectacularly to realize) the impossible, self-negating ideal of whiteness ...

She slowly rolls her body off the platform and into the audience.’ (p. xix)


[On Nao Bustamante’s performance, America the Beautiful]



Failed States: refuge – Jamie Atherton (ed)

‘Changing name is negotiating history, family, inheritance, but I’ve mostly thought of the spaces it opens up. I’m forty one years old and instead of consolidating my narrative I’ve dropped the thread. I’ve taken pleasure in not knowing how to introduce myself, stuttering between names. Pleasure in the moment of recognition when someone says this new name and I get to reply.’ (p. 101)


[From Every Ocean Hughes, Ocean]




Exercises for Rebel Artists: Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes

‘Asian/Russian (male or female) bride in search of tender Anglo husband. “Write your phone number on my body and persuade me you are the one”

“Authentic African queen” sitting on a throne while white men from the audience kneel and shine her boots or “tenderly wash her feet”

Arm wrestling with audience members (across race, gender, and class)’ (p. 162)




Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide – Boaventura de Sousa Santos

‘Enlightened by the epistemologies of both blindness and seeing, it is possible to envisage the emergence of a prudent knowledge for a decent life, a knowledge that, by going from colonialism to solidarity, opens the space for a new kind of order, a noncolonialist or decolonial order bounding current experiences and expectations about the future, actions, and consequences. The ultimate aspiration is all too human, an aspiration that I call advanced normality: the aspiration to live in normal times whose normality does not derive from the naturalization of abnormality.’ (p. 163) 



Did you think we’ll finish without consulting Hafez himself? No. But – sorry mum – I don’t have a Hafez so I asked my friend Leila to take a fal for us. She asked Hafez ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’. And here is a verse from the response:


‘I said, Did you see how times of joy came to end?

She said, Be quiet, Hafez. This grief will also end.’

(ghazal 231)


Tara Fatehi Irani (b. 1987, Tehran) makes art, writes and performs. Her practice explores the ephemeral interactions between memories, words, bodies and sites and has grown through transnational collaborations with a range of artists, writers, choreographers and musicians recently including Karen Christopher, Pouya Ehsaei, Station House Opera and DARC. She has performed at the Royal Academy of Arts, SPILL Festival, Battersea Arts Centre, Nuffield Theatre (Lancaster), Toynbee Studios, RichMix, HighFest and Molavi Theatre amongst others. Her practice-as-research PhD (University of Roehampton, LADA, 2019) explores mishandling archives through multivocality, pyromania, mythology and web‑archaeography. In 2021, she will be resident artist at EoFA and the United Nations Archives at Geneva.