Leila Zelli in Paspébiac


Why Should I Stop?

Leila Zelli, Montréal (Québec) | leilazelli.com

In this work, designed specifically for the exhibition Somewhere, Otherwise (2020-2021), curated by Ariane De Blois, as part of the QUADrature project at the Galerie de l’UQÀM, Leila Zelli pays tribute to the strength and resilience of a group of Iranian women. Following the state decision to ban women from publicly practicing Varzesh-e Bâstâni, many women have turned to social media to broadcast images of themselves practicing this ancient sport, traditionally reserved for men.

Zelli has compiled videos from an Instagram account dedicated to this cause into a video montage and then looped them to highlight the courage and tenacity of these athletes in the face of adversity. The presence of several young girls makes it clear that the struggles of women in Iran will continue: they are not about to end. Read in Persian by the artist, the poem “Only Sound Will Last” by Forough Farrokhzad, from which the work takes its title, doubly anchors her words in a poetic and historical perspective. Lastly, echoing the militant approach taken by these women, the artist filmed herself walking assertively in a circle, barefoot and wearing traditional pants, in a zoorkhaneh (traditional training ground) that she stumbled upon in a wooded area near her Montreal home. She also documents her learning of the rudiments of Varzesh-e Bâstâni, taught by her father, on her Instagram account.

The piece of music, heard in a loop in the main video, Maryam Akhondy’s Zoorkhaneh, comes from one of the online videos excerpted by the artist.

“Only Sound Will Last,” by Forough Farrokhzad, translated by Maryam Ala Amjadi.

Projection at Rencontres

Why Should I Stop?

Born in Tehran (Iran), Leila Zelli lives and works in Montreal. She holds an MFA (2020) and a BFA (2016) in Visual and Media Arts from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Zelli is interested in the relationship that we have with the ideas of “others” and “elsewhere” and more specifically within this geopolitical space often referred to by the questionable term “Middle East.” Her work has been shown in among other places at the Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery (2020), at the Conseil des arts de Montréal (2019-2020), at Galerie de l’UQAM (2020, 2019, 2015) and at the Foire en art actuel in Québec City (2019). Her works are part of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts collection, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec’s Prêt d’oeuvres d’art collection, the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul collection and the collection of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.