Saturday, 30 October 2010

Iranian Art: Bridging the Modern and Contemporary

Asia Society Museum, New York, Oct. 25, 2010

  L-R. Mitra Abbaspour, Hamid Keshmirshekan, Layla Diba, Linda Komaroff, Venetia Porter

By Miwako Tezuka, PhD
Associate Curator, Asia Society

October 25, 2010, New York, NY—In preparation for a major exhibition focusing on the development of modernism in Iran scheduled for 2013, Asia Society launched its multi-year study of modern art in Iran with “Bridging the Modern and Contemporary,” a discussion by esteemed specialists in the field. Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director and Vice President of Global Art Programs, introduced the program as part of the Society’s ongoing commitment to bringing a new perspective to modern and contemporary Asian art—a commitment that began 15 years ago. Participating speakers included Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hamid Keshmirshekan, art historian, critic, and chief editor of the Art Tomorrow Journal in Tehran; Linda Komaroff, Curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Venetia Porter, Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art at the British Museum. The program was moderated by Layla S. Diba, an independent scholar and art advisor, and former Director and Chief Curator of the Negarestan Museum in Tehran (1975–1979). In the United States, she has also held a curatorial position at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The discussion examined contemporary Iranian art in relation to art movements before the Iranian Islamic Revolution, as well as in the larger context of the global contemporary art scene.

Diba began the program with an overview of the evolution of Iranian modernism and the current state of the field. She traced the trajectory of Iran’s effort in “becoming modern,” which began with the inception of European academic painting in the late nineteenth century, and continued with the first installment of the Tehran Biennale in 1958 and the founding of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 1977. During the 1960s and 1970s, leading up to the Iranian Islamic Revolution, artists in Iran developed their own modern visual language by combining Persian artistic traditions, such as calligraphy, with the adopted techniques of European modern art. The most significant development in this regard was called the Sakahone movement, but there were various other experiments—many by artists who were trained abroad and returned to Iran to begin a search for identity, authenticity, and stylistic diversity. Diba pointed out that an increasing number of study materials have been made available in recent years through exhibitions and related publications; examples include the exhibitions “Picturing Iran” (2002 at New York Unversity’s Grey Art Gallery) and “Contemporary Iranian Art” (2001 at the Barbican Centre in London). Interest in Iranian modern and contemporary art has been intensifying among institutions and collectors alike, coinciding with a thriving art market in the Persian Gulf. Asia Society’s close examination of the unique contributions that Iranian artists have made in the past 40 years is timely.

The first speaker, Hamid Keshmirshekan, emphasized the continuity between pre- and post-Revolutionary art, in particular, the significance of the 1960s and 1970s as the rise of so-called Neo-Traditionalism. The 1979 Revolution brought a halt to this artistic movement, but it resumed again with new dimensions in the early 1990s, with the establishment of official biennials and other types of exhibitions. While both pre- and post-Revolutionary artists have been concerned with identity, the new Neo-Traditionalism has been less homogenous in its approach. Artists are now more critical of their identity and conscious about how to present themselves, rather than simply celebrating their heritage.

Following Hamid’s presentation, Mitra Abbaspour offered her insight into the legacy of pre-Revolutionary art by focusing on the importance of Iran’s unique photographic tradition. Today’s Iranian artists—most notably Shirin Neshat—have clearly inherited a great deal from their predecessors of the 1960s and 1970s, who formulated a unique visual language coded with metaphor. In the 1960s, such artists as Bahman Jalali combined careful investigations into social circumstances with formalist and poetic beauty. The visual language of gesture and pattern can be considered the legacy of pre-Revolutionary art. Moreover, the new generation of Iranian artists is also inspired by the rise of the individual in the 1960s and Iran’s strong tradition in documentary photography. In reevaluating the effect and legacy of pre-Revolutionary art on today’s artists, Abbaspour suggests that we will escape the clichéd approach of categorizing today’s Iranian art either with western modernism or with contemporary Islamic art.

Venetia Porter placed Iranian modernism within the larger context of the Middle East. After illustrating her museum’s collection of works from the Saqqakhaneh movement—by artists such as Sia Armajani, Hossein Zenderoudi, and Parvis Tanavoli—Dr. Porter clarified the position that a preoccupation with traditional authenticity can be found widely in Middle Eastern art. For example, in Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s, artists such as Jawad Salim modeled their work after Sumerian and Babylonian art as well as ancient epics such as the Gilgamesh story. While a significant number of philosophically oriented manifestos emerged in the Iraqi art scene, Iraqi artists also looked deeply into the technical and formal aspects of traditional scripts and calligraphy. It is important to consider Iranian modernism, particularly the Saqqakhaneh movement, within this international context.

Linda Komaroff brought up the issue of collecting and exhibiting Iranian art in America. She introduced artworks recently acquired by the Islamic Art department at LACMA, including works by such artists as Malikeh Nayiny, who reconnects with her own past by recontextualizing her family photos; Yassaman Ameri, who uses small images based on photos of women that her mother inherited; Houra Yaghoubi, who addresses women’s position in society; and Siamak Filizadeh, who recasts famous Iranian heroes from the Shahnamah as contemporary pop culture superheroes. This new generation of artists is working not only within the context set by Iranian artists that preceded them, but also within the larger context of Islamic art. Komaroff assigns great importance to the acquisition of works like these, which helps broaden our perspectives on today’s art. She is hopeful for future projects in which various museum departments can share in the richness of art from this region.

After the speakers’ brief presentations, Diba led a discussion with them on stage. She first posed a question about how to contextualize modern Iranian art in exhibitions. In Komaroff’s view, exhibitions should be thematic or focused on media rather than a specific culture or region. She commented that it is an exciting time to be dealing with the issue of contemporary Asian art in relation to contemporary art globally. Porter followed up by giving an example of the shift—or expansion—of interest within the United Kingdom. Recently, the British Museum, Tate, and the Victoria and Albert Museum have begun a joint effort in collecting contemporary photography from the Middle East.

Diba also questioned the role of calligraphy in Iranian modern art. Keshmirshekan noted that the use of calligraphy in the modern context began in the 1960s in a kind of Dadaistic manner, in which calligraphy was practiced as a kind of nonsensical pseudo-writing. In the early 1990s, this approach was expanded with more specific attention to religious meanings. In addition, many artists today critically reevaluate calligraphy through satirical deformations and by infusing it with humor. They are also influenced by globalization and postmodern approaches. For many artists, Porter adds, perhaps calligraphy provides a comfort zone, and for uninitiated audiences, a gateway to contemporary art from this region.

Another important issue brought up during the discussion was the role of women. According to Abbaspour, during the pre-Revolutionary period there were spaces and opportunities for women to be active in the field of art, but the post-Revolutionary era saw a rise of female artists in the  diaspora. In terms of women as subjects of art, Komaroff pointed out that women’s dress has become a popular focus of both artists and western curiosity. The topic of women in Iranian art in a way exposes our expectations of and preoccupations about the region. Porter offered the observation that western collectors and museums are interested in particular subjects—such as women and also calligraphy—because they are easily recognizable cultural identifiers. In reality, Keshmirshekan reports, a great number of galleries in Iran are, in fact, run by women—proof of women’s real contributions to the field of Iranian art.

The discussion also covered the field of photography and film. Abbaspour elaborated upon an approach that she terms “poetic documentary.” It was generated by cross-disciplinary communication among literary figures, poets, and visual artists in the 1960s. Keshmirshekan adds that there was no fine art photography during the pre-revolutionary era, and it was only during the reform period of the late 1990s to early 2000s that a fundamental change—from photojournalism to art—was brought forth and the development of fine art photography began.

Perhaps the hardest question posed during the discussion was the last: what is the future of Iranian art? Although the speakers agreed that it is extremely difficult to forecast the future given Iran’s ever-changing state of affairs, there is good news. First, the development of art is becoming more independent of cultural custodians. Secondly, with increasing connections to and communications with the broader world, artists are breaking out of their seclusion and moving in a direction that promises a more creative future for Iran’s art.


Friday, 29 October 2010

Asia Society: Bridging Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art

On October 25h, 2010,  Asia Society brought together a panel of experts in the art world to discuss the lines of continuity between modern and contemporary art in the last half a century in Iran. The panel:  Mitra Abbaspour (Associate Curator of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art), Hamid Keshmirshekan (Chief Editor of the Art Tomorrow Journal in Tehran), Linda Komaroff (Curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and Venetia Porter (Curator of Department of the Middle East at the British Museum) was moderated by Layla S. Diba (independent scholar).

In their introductions, the panelists recalled the biennial created by Ehsan Yarshater in 1958 as a crucial moment, ushering in modernism in Iranian art. As Hamid Keshmirshekan observed, new traditionalism in the art of the 1960s and 70s and in the saqqakhaneh movement of the period, was concerned with the question of imitation and appropriation in national art and consciousness. These preoccupations waned in the aftermath of a decade of revolutionary works in the 1980s and '90s and by the start of the reformist period in the mid-1990s, Iranian art emerged, embedded in global trends.

In this context, Mitra Abbaspour argued that Shirin Neshat's is an ideal case-study of a work that bridges the gap between the 1960s modernist era and contemporary global art. Neshat uses source materials from the 1950s and '60s, such as the poetry of Forrough-Farrokhzad in the calligraphy-on-skin photographs of the "Women of Allah" series, and the social-realist documentary works of Kaveh Golestan,  that continue to inspire even her more recent film practice.

The emphasis on script and calligraphy, present in the art of the region (Dia Azzawi, Suad Attar,  Shaker Hassan al-Said (Iraq), Burhan Dogançay (Turkey) and Etel Adnan (Lebanon -- and the first modernist hurufiyya artist)),as Venetia Porter pointed out, has given way to digitally altered photography in Iranian art. This too is evident, and especially so, in the contemporary artwork acquired by LACMA, the British Museum and the Tate Modern.

Linda Komaroff introduced the collection of Iranian contemporary art at LACMA, as work made largely by women such as Shadi GhadirianHoura Yaghoubi  (Who is my generation?), with the notable exception of Sadegh Tirafkan.
What we see as the anti-ideological stand taken by contemporary Iranian artists, is in part a response to the pre-revolutionary generation, and a position taken against the orientalist look, as Iranian art attempts to lodge itself in the global art world.

Negar Mottahedeh
Program in Literature
Duke University
Via International Society for Iranian Studies

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

An Iranian film wanders in an allegorical desert

By Kirk Honeycutt

Unless he wishes to reside outside his native country or in a prison, an Iranian filmmaker today must resort to allegory or metaphor. Thus, international audiences are left to tease out meanings from a film such as "Flamingo No. 13."

It plays out in an achingly beautiful landscape, scarcely touched by civilization, where a handful of characters exchange rudimentary dialogue interspersed with poetic observations and puzzling obsessions.

Adding to the dilemma for English-speakers, the subtitles show an imperfect grasp of English, so one cannot rely on them to accurately reflect even the basic sense of what is being said, much less subtle implications or idiomatic nuances.

The movie, airing in competition at the Tokyo Film Festival, comes from first-time feature director Hamid Reza Aligholian, who has worked in advertising and music videos. He also places on his resume the workshop of Abbas Kiarostami, one of Iranian cinema's current exiles, forced to live abroad to evade the potential wrath of Iran's ruling elite, whose sensibilities are so easily provoked.

Indeed, the film itself concerns exiles, living in a desolate, hardscrabble landscape, which may be the first clue in this allegory from Aligholian and his co-writer, Rasoul Younan. Many of the men in a small settlement -- little more than a collection of decaying houses clinging to a hillside beneath a majestic yet forbidding mountain range -- are "exiles." Watching an official who passes through once a year to make certain everyone is still where he belongs, you gather that they are criminals deported from cramped prison cells to a countryside that, for all its vastness, is just another kind of cell.

One peculiar fellow, Solaiman (Younanr), spends most of his time hunting down a poor flamingo. This is highly illegal, you learn, but nothing can seemingly prevent his obsessive behavior -- not the woman who loves him, Tamay (Baran Zamani), whom he marries without much fanfare, nor local villagers, who caution him against such illicit behavior.

A hunter must hunt, he reasons. One time he even gets the bird in his sight, but cannot pull the trigger since it's so beautiful, which doesn't prevent. Not that it prevents him from heading out the next day to hunt once more. Okay, obsessive, rebellious behavior despite already being an exile -- a metaphor for an Iranian filmmaker today?

Then there's the wife. The second time Solaiman disappears while out hunting -- the first time he went missing for three days -- he does not return. Everyone else concludes he drowned in the sea. (Why would he hunt a flamingo in the sea, you ask? Good question.) But his wife insists they are all wrong. But if it is she who is wrong, it's "a beautiful wrongness," she declares.

Does a beautiful wrongness sum up the hopes and dreams of Iranian artists and intellectuals in the midst of a corrupt and tyrannical religious dictatorship? Perhaps.

A fellow exile, himself in love with Tamay, grows jealous of the couple and crudely tries to insinuate himself between the two lovers. He fails utterly and is himself eventually attacked by another exile for brazenly trying to kidnap the woman.

Shooting in HD Cam, cinematographer Esmaeil Aghajani alternates extreme long shots with close-ups of his actors that help capture a feeling of entrapment in a vast void. Breaking up the monotony, musicians or dancers occasionally break out into traditional ceremonies. Or men gather to gossip, argue and inhale tobacco on hookahs, filing the air with smoke and the soundtrack with sucking noises.

Presumably the hookahs are not metaphorical.

Via Hollywood Reporter

Flamingo No.13
Director: Hamid Reza Aligholian

Cast: Baran Zamani, Rasoul Younan, Mohammad Taghi Shams Langroudi
2010 / Iran

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Iranian born artists at FIAC 2010 Contemporary Art Fair

True to Parisian form, Fiac, the international contemporary art fair, aims to impress. Hundreds of works, spread throughout the Tuilleries gardens, the Cour Carrée of the Louvre and the Grand Palais, promise to shock, amaze, frustrate and provoke.

The Grand Palais brings together modern and contemporary art galleries-showing solo, group or thematic exhibitions-as well as the design sector, which FIAC was the first international fair to include beginning in 2004; and the Modern Project since 2009.

The Cour Carrée of the Louvre brings together contemporary art galleries, whose activity is characterized by a prospective approach that focuses on promising creative talent, as well as the Lafayette sector.

In the heart of the Jardin des Tuileries, a selection of monumental sculptures and contemporary art installations, in collaboration with the Louvre Museum. At different sites, a programme of performances at the crossroads of music, contemporary dance and theatre; in partnership with the Louvre Museum.

 Axel Pahlavi - La morgue flottante -2009 - Eva hober

 Axel Pahlavi - Saint Michel - 2008 - eva hober

 Ali Banisadr - The-Gatekeepers - 2009 oil on linen - Ali Banisadr

 Elika Hedayat - sans titre - 2009 - acrylique stylo feutre - courtesy galerie Aline Vidal

 Elika Hedayat - sans titre - 2010 - acrylique stylo feutre - courtesy galerie Aline Vidal

 Farhad Moshiri - Toothpicker - 2008 - Huile et cristaux sur toile montees sur carton Oil and crystals on canvas mounted on board - Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

 Nader Ahriman - Die schöne sittliche Welt der Polis -2009 - acrylic on canvas - Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna

 Navid Nuur - ! -2009 - The artist

Rokni Haerizadeh - Bed piss - 2009 -oil on canvas - Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris - Salzburg

 Shirin Neshat - Untitled, Zarin series - 2005 - c print - Courtesy of Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon

Sirous Namazi - Fragment - 2009 - Steel wall profiles fluorescent lamps - the artist

 Tala Madan - Aaaa - 2010 - oil on canvas - Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects

 Tala Madan - Spreading Clown - 2008 - oil on wood - Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects

Monday, 18 October 2010

New Film Offers Pearls of Art from Lives of Iranian Women

By Jeff Baron
Filmmaker Robert Adanto became intrigued by Iran, and set out to explore its culture through the eyes and artwork of its women.

Washington — Filmmaker Robert Adanto says he is fascinated by the Iranian art featured in his new documentary, but even more by the women who have created that art and their view of the Iranian society in which they live — or which they have left behind.

“I just wanted to stick with looking at the art as a vehicle for exploring larger issues,” said Adanto, an American whose film, Pearls on the Ocean Floor, has begun making the rounds of movie festivals in the United States and Europe. The film explores the work and thoughts of 16 Iranian, Iranian-American and expatriate artists. His previous film, The Rising Tide, followed young artists in China.

“For me, just the act of creating — of painting, of sculpting, of dancing — that’s humanity at its best. It’s our elevated self,” he said. “I’m kind of an idealist in that way, and that’s my core belief. And these women, like the Chinese artists, are doing that at great odds.”

Although Adanto trained as an actor, he comes to his topic from a background in teaching, with nearly all of his classroom experience at a well-known private school, Crossroads, near Los Angeles. There, he said, he was able to concentrate on one part of the world or another in an interdisciplinary course, and he became intrigued by Iran. Just as with China, he said, “you can’t predict where Iran will be in 10 years.”

And as different as China and Iran are, he said, both have conservative cultures, limited freedoms and young people caught up in the possibilities of change. “Iran continues to kind of have this exploration towards democracy, people striving for it, and a youth that now with globalization and the Internet knows of the outside world, and it’s being held [back] by this kind of archaic, clerical system that doesn’t want to open the gates,” he said.

The London-based Iranian multimedia artist Afsoon, who goes by one name, says in the film’s opening interview that she cannot help but be conscious of the freedoms she enjoys while friends still in Iran “don’t have these very basic rights.”

“Because I’m such a nonpolitical artist, you know, my works have been so autobiographical that I wouldn’t be able to pretend that I have a political side,” she said. “But I am a woman and I am Iranian. And in itself, the fact that I say what I want to say is my way of trying to point light onto what other people cannot do in Iran.”

Adanto credited the 2009 book Iranian Photography Now, edited by Rose Issa, with pointing out recurrent themes in today’s Iranian art: the legacy of the 1979 revolution; the residue of the Iran-Iraq war; the longing and nostalgia for a homeland by those in the diaspora; and the divided identity of those within Iran, especially women, who must navigate between their public and private selves. “Some people were saying, ‘Three or four times I switch throughout my day, depending on where I am, where I’m going,’ and … I just thought I could do a film on that,” Adanto said.

In this 2008 painting Native Influences, U.S.-born San Francisco artist Taravat Talepasand clothes a woman’s figure in nothing but the colors of the Iranian flag.

Although the subjects of Pearls on the Ocean Floor are artists, Adanto said the issues they deal with apply more generally to Iranian women. “We in the West have simplified Iranian women through the media, and all the images have no complexity,” he said. “We’ve robbed Iranian women of their complexity. They remain silent, or we imagine them to be downtrodden. The images we see, we imagine them to be poor, with no sense of humor, no sexuality, no personality. Most of the times you see Iranian women, they show the Shia women in black chadors, with their fists [raised], yelling, and that’s who an Iranian is in the West.”
Pearls — the title comes from a poem by the 14th-century poet Hāfez — shows some very different pictures of Iran, and especially of its women.

Haleh Anvari, for example, plays off the image of the black chador with photographs of women in spectacularly colorful and flowered ones set against bleak landscapes or glamorous city scenes. Shadi Ghadirian, another photographer, has created what seem to be new black-and-white portraits from the 19th century, with a traditionally dressed woman from the Qajar period (late 18th century to early 20th century) holding a boom box or a Pepsi can; in another series, colorful chadors show only a kitchen utensil or other household item where the woman’s face would be.

The art and the 16 featured artists express mixed feelings about Iran, but the women who have left the country — and even those who have lived in the United States all their lives — draw material from Iranian culture, Adanto said. “There’s kind of a glorification of their past,” he said. “They know they come from a great civilization.”

There’s also a sense of loss. “It is a vacuum when one cannot have a healthy relationship to one’s home country,” Parastou Forouhar, a painter based in Germany, says in the film. “It’s like the memory of an abuse that one feels.”

The women’s art also draws from the drama of Iran in their lifetime, Adanto said. “This is what they grew up with. [Sara Rahbar] said, ‘My mom sung me songs of the revolution to put me to sleep. It’s not as if I decided to pick political work, but these were the things that were important to me.’” Rahbar, a mixed-media artist who divides her time between the United States and Iran, has incorporated elements of the flags of both countries into her art. Gohar Dashti, who grew up in southern Iran during the devastating war with Iraq, has created photos of domestic scenes overtaken by war: a man and a woman watching television in a bunker, eating a pleasant meal at a table in front of a tank, hanging laundry on barbed wire or setting off on their honeymoon in a bombed-out car.

“I think it’s hard for any artist to get away from their life experience,” Adanto said.

Afsoon said that, for her, the life experience is essential to the art. “Once you lose something for life and you know you can never get it back, you know, it sort of stays inside you, and with me, it’s my childhood and my past,” she said. “I left Iran, and in some ways Iran changed, and what I do, I try to re-create that … and therefore I can visit my own past. And I believe that in my own life, my own experience, you have to walk this life, you have to walk this way, to find a key, to discover yourself, and for me, part of the journey is through my art.”

Adanto said the Iranian government’s crackdown after the June 2009 presidential election prompted him to abandon his plans to visit Iran, but he was able to arrange interviews in Europe with the Iranian-based artists. He said funding for the project included a gift from the mother of one of his students, a Kurdish Iranian American.

His next film won’t take him quite so far from his Los Angeles home: Adanto said he has been interviewing artists in New Orleans who have rebuilt their lives since a hurricane devastated the city in 2005.
More information on Pearls on the Ocean Floor and The Rising Tide is available on websites for the films.


Sunday, 10 October 2010

One Generation – Seven Artists

Note: Show ends on October 16.

One Generation – Seven Artists presents seven Iranian artists graduated from Tehran University, Faculty of Art, during late1960s and early 1970s.

“Our group of seven does not claim to have a manifesto; rather we present a collective exhibition from artists who share a lot of similar experiences. We don’t ask why we are all together, but half a century of friendship is the best mortar for our bonding.”

Curate by Nahid Hagigat

Participating Artists:
Nahid Hagigat, Hadi Hazavei, Shahram Karimi, Abbas Kiarostami, Nicky Nodjoumi, Sudi Sharafshahi, Nasser Vaziri

"The Second World War brought many tragedies all over the world, like atomic bombs and gas chambers.

We were born around the same time in Iran, which was occupied from North to South.  The occupation had eased the pressure from the dictatorship of the government, the mullahs, and their traditions. As a result, different political parties flourished and we gained the freedom to protest.  We were educated together, and endured the misery of WWII with crowded schools that lacked heat and electricity. Under occupation we had more freedom to be ourselves without indoctrination.

Our group of seven has been friends for almost half a century; we are all presently pushing our 60’s and 70’s.  We remember the harsh curriculum of the Fine Arts College (which unfortunately is much worse now). We studied and exhibited in Europe and America and most of us reside and work in America today. Using different styles, different mediums, and different artistic vocabularies, we all emerge from the essence of limited freedom in childhood and the latter freedom of expression in America.

This group does not claim to have a manifesto; rather we present a collective exhibition from artists who share a lot of similar experiences.  I don’t ask why we are all together, but half a century of friendship is the best mortar for our bonding."

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Magic of Persia Presents New Work by Mahmoud Bakhshi at the Saatchi Gallery

Khat-e Poolsaz-e Parsi, Fabric, 2009-10 by Mahmoud Bakhshi

On September 27th 2010, Magic of Persia revealed a remarkable new exhibition of works by young Iranian artist, and winner of the 2009 Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize, Mahmoud Bakhshi, at the Saatchi Gallery.

The first of its kind, Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize (MOP CAP) is a global search to identify the most talented emerging Iranian artists in the four distinct categories of Painting, Sculpture, Photography and New Media.

To ensure the highest possible quality of submitted works, entry into the competition is by nomination only, decided by a panel of experts in contemporary Iranian art and culture from around the world. As well as helping to launch the careers of Iranian artists worldwide, the prize also aims to alleviate stereotypes and to provide a platform for the burgeoning Persian art scene.

For his forthcoming exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, Bakhshi will present a new series of work. His installation will pose the question, what should an artist create in a country like Iran?
The process will serve to show, not what is there, but what is missing when art is limited and controlled. As Bakhshi explains, “In a society like Iran the artistic community has to negotiate its relationship with the authorities, with many resorting to underground activity.

“Traditional aesthetic approaches have been successful both within Middle-Eastern society and the art market for some time, yet I believe they have become ineffective in responding to anaesthetic approaches have been successful both within Middle-Eastern society and the art increasingly complex environment. For my new project I am attempting to initiate a new approach that seeks to reinvigorate Islamic society whilst adhering to its parameters.”

Born in Tehran–where he continues to live and work today–Bakhshi, via his work, will reference the revolution in Iran as well as his personal memories of his home nation, reflecting the relationship between the artist’s life and his environment.
In a wider context, Bakhshi has always felt that artists have the power to instigate change, “It has always been my belief that the artist has the potential of being a kind of hero who does not need to fight or kill but can achieve this status by creating something new, thus bringing hope to a society where there is a hunger for reformation.”

Bakhshi’s work was featured in the first exhibition of contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran. Subsequently, Bakhshi has exhibited his work in both solo and group exhibitions, most recently, Tulips Rise From the Blood of the Nation’s Youth at Azad Gallery, Tehran; Last Ride in a Hot Air Balloon at The 4th Aukland Triennial; and a group show at the Galerie Thaddaeua Ropac, Paris.
He last exhibited in London in 2008 at the Barbican Centre. This was a group exhibition called Iran: New Voices, which explored contemporary Iranian film and video art.

Bakhshi was also granted a six month residency at the Changdong Art Studio, Seoul, before he went on to win the MOP CAP prize in 2009. He will also take on a residency at The Delfina Foundation as of September 13th, 2010. Now, author of ‘Sculpture’, a textbook for art schools in Iran, Bakhshi was once Editor in Chief and Art Director of Mojassameh (sculpture) magazine.

He is also the creator of Bon-gah Publication.

Photos by Saven Chadha