Mishandled Archive

With multitudes of stunning photographs, dance scores, essays and stories told in hashtags, Mishandled Archive records and reflects on Tara Fatehi Irani’s intentional scattering and displacement of a family archive. Elegantly designed by David Caines, the book offers a space to reimagine what it means to create, disseminate, dismantle and continue the life of an archive. 

Every day for a year, artist and writer Tara Fatehi Irani dispersed fragments of family photographs and documents in public places in the UK, Iran, Switzerland, Kurdistan, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, the Persian Gulf, and in between borders and amongst the clouds. She made a photograph, an annotation, a dance and an Instagram post on the site of each dispersal. 

The project embraces nomadism, taking up temporary homes in unexpected public places and in the bodies of those who encounter it. In this nomadic dispersal, there is potential for sites, bodies and histories to intermingle and reimagine themselves through a fantasy of possible futures. 

Contributions by artists, writers and researchers expand and reflect on the themes of the project including creative engagement with archives, anthropophagy and history, accumulating forgettable objects, fictional kinship, homelessness, and choreographing uncertainty. 

Contributors: Nicola Conibere, Maddy Costa, Diana Damian Martin, Eirini Kartsaki, Joe Kelleher, Shahram Khosravi, Giulia Palladini, Mary Paterson, Marco Pustianaz, Anahid Ravanpoor, Holly Revell and Jemima Yong.

Get special editions and signed copies of Mishandled Archive here.

it is a process that opens up new possibilities of using history, not as a backdrop to our lives but as a material to be played with, distorted and appropriated. Fatehi Irani has created a method of extending our archival stories that lives outside of institutions, history books and photo albums. It is a method for artists but also for archivists of the everyday and historians of the imaginary. If everyone has a story, and those stories are threads, Fatehi Irani’s work is like a loom, crossing and knotting these threads together through encounters of past and present. By mishandling the archive we are making our own marks on it, but also letting it mark us.
Tara Fatehi Irani’s 'Mishandled Archive' publication folds time and space in complex ways, creating a strange weave of collected images, near and distant lives, real and imagined pasts, instagram posts and minimalist dance scores. In its detailed, endlessly reflexive record of a year long performance it speaks of diasporic experience, displacement and new modes of what might be called belonging. It’s a compelling project that celebrates the fragility, tenaciousness and fecundity of memory and the extraordinary capacity of images to summon narratives as they interact with landscape, casting a spell of connection between strangers in locations around the world, from London to Tehran, Newcastle to Zurich.


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.


a fal through Unbound

Marking the publication of her book, Mishandled Archive, Tara Fatehi Irani is Unbound’s guest editor for January 2021. 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.

[with closed eyes]

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

They say, …


Read Tara's text
In this gem of a book, Tara Fatehi Irani expands even further her vast creative exploration of how remembered histories link to global networks of bodies, spaces, and temporalities. Deploying a range of media from the oldest known to human communities (oral history and gossip) to the newest (social media), passing through archival research and modes of documentation, Fatehi Irani's nomadic performative process creates new worlds. This book both informs and dazzles for any interested in history, memory, archives, and performance.
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Mishandled Archive: The Book Launch

LADA are thrilled to present the launch and celebration of Tara Fatehi Irani’s book, Mishandled Archive. Deepest thanks to all the contributors of this event: Rachel Mars, Lorenza Peragine, Joe Kelleher, Guilia Palladini, Pouya Ehsaei, Diana Damian Martin, Mary Paterson, Jemima Yong, Maddy Costa and Holly Revell, CJ Mitchell, and of course Tara Fatehi Irani.

Tara Fatehi Irani leaves us with such feelings wherever she goes and whatever she does … in a playfully structured daily praxis of juxtaposition of realities, she has been building a web to trap the attention of an occasional passerby … someone open, who would get in touch, curious to hear the story … A story related to the lost and misplaced fragments of lives of unknown people … Many were intrigued across diverse geographies. Me, I can’t stop thinking of that pair of knees from someone being cut out of the picture … and of the photo of two women in elegant white mid-knee length dresses, whose heads have been cut off the picture, photo left at the Montpelier Pub.… Warm recommendation.

Banner image credit:

Book cover of Mishandled Archive by Tara Fatehi Irani, published by the Live Art Development Agency, 2020.


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