Saturday, 26 November 2011

Forbidden Love Scenes in the Pious Dinosaur Nation

Tough rulings against Iranian filmmakers and the harsh treatment of female actors are causing despair in the film industry. But it wasn't always like this. Amir Hassan Cheheltan outlines the history of Iranian cinema, which is richer and more complex than the outside world realises

by Amir Hassan Cheheltan

Courts in Iran recently handed down prison sentences to two Iranian filmmakers, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. The court of appeal found them guilty of acting against national security and creating anti-regime propaganda.

A few years ago, a young female actor who appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in a Hollywood film was arrested and maltreated; she felt she had no choice but to leave the country.

Another even more recent case concerns another female actor. She was sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes for appearing in a film that had been approved by Iran's cultural authorities. Her colleagues protested against the decision in an open letter, saying that the Iranian film industry was simply not strong enough to bear a punishment such as this.

Contravention of Sharia law

In this film, the female actor in question plays the part of a young woman conducting an extramarital affair with a young man. They attend parties together outside the city. It goes without saying that no love scenes are shown in the film, and the party scenes are set in a dark location so full of cigarette smoke that it's difficult to make anything out clearly. But the main point is this: the woman appears before the camera without a headscarf, as her head is shaved totally bald. Sharia law dictates that the hair on the head must be covered up. A head with no hair, however, does not need to be covered up.

In an interview, the director of the film raises the question as to whether an actor can be held responsible for a crime committed in a film. Other colleagues of the actress point out that the world of film is fictional, not reality.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Art of Stepping Through Time

Iranian poet H.E. Sayeh (né Houshang Ebtehaj) was born February 25, 1928 in Rasht, Iran. Unlike many other literary figures during Shah Reza Pahlavi's reign, Sayeh refrained from being involved in politics and left-leaning activities, while staying true to his social and political consciousness. However, after the 1979 Iranian revolution, he did not refrain from expressing the deep sorrow felt by a nation whose social revolution was kidnapped by an Islamic and repressive regime. He was arrested in 1981 and spent a year in jail. Many other poets in his circle were also imprisoned and some were executed. In "Black and White", a poem he wrote in 1991, Sayeh laments:

I don't know who sold our loyalty
What he earned or bought with the money

But I see that black hand above the bar
Pouring poison in the people's wine
In 1987, he moved to Germany.

A slim volume of his selected poems is being published in English translation in November 2011 under the title The Art of Stepping through Time.  


The Art of Stepping Through Time
by H. E. Sayeh
translated by Chad Sweeney and Mojdeh Marashi

The world does not begin or end today
Sad and happy hide behind one curtain
If you're on the path don't despair of the distance
Arrival is the art of stepping through time
A seasoned traveler on the road to love's door
Your blood leaves its mark on every step
Still water soon sinks into the earth
But the river rolling grows into a sea
Let's hope that one reaches the target
So many arrows have flown from this old bow
Time taught me to fall out of love with your face
That's why these tears are tinted with blood
Pity this long game of decades
Plays the human heart as a toy
A caravan of tulips crossing this meadow
Was crushed under-hoof by the riders of autumn
The day that sets spring's breath in motion
Will birth flowers and grasses from shore to shore
Mountain, you heard my cry today
The pain in this chest was born with the world
All praised brotherhood but did not live it
God, how many miles from tongue to hand?
Blood trickles my eyes in this corner of enduring
The patience I practice is squeezing my life
Come on, Sayeh, don't swerve from the path
A jewel is buried beneath every step

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Canary in a Coal Mine

An upcoming exhibition of the works of Farhad Ahrarnia
18 January – 25 February 2012

Until the 1980s, British coal miners would take a caged canary with them underground. Because the bird sings most of the time, if the oxygen level dropped or any dangerous gases were emitted, its death was an early warning system. 

The phrase “canary in a coal mine” refers to someone who can detect signs of trouble and danger, whose sensitivity makes them vulnerable. The sentiment is an appropriate title for Farhad Ahrarnia’s work: the idea of the caged canary, singing in the depths of the ground, while shovels unearth treasure, digging into the fabric of life. 

This is Ahrarnia’s second solo show with Rose Issa Projects, and has some echoes of the first, Stitched (2008), in that it explores the idea of being “stitched up”. For Canary in a Coal Mine he has created larger-format works that combine embroidery, digital photography, sewing needles, silver-bronze shovels and dustpans. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Maps that defy borders

The child-like works of Iranian artist Ghazel have deeper resonances in the issues of identity, displacement and alienation
Ghazel uses ballpoint pens to draw universally understood symbols — such as the sun, trees, houses, hearts and suitcases — on world maps

By Jyoti Kalsi, Special to Weekend Review  

Iranian artist Ghazel's work is defined by her nomadic existence. She was 19 years old when she left Iran to study art in France. Since then, she has lived in various cities around the world and at present divides her time between Iran and Europe. She channels her personal experiences of being an exile, who has homes in many places but cannot feel at home anywhere, to explore universal themes of displacement, identity and alienation. Although she deals with serious and complex subjects, Ghazel's style is simple, direct and full of humour.

The artist is well known for her performance videos and installations. But for her first exhibition in Dubai she has chosen to display for the first time a series of drawings along with three videos. Titled Geo-politics of Roots — No Man's Land, the show comments on the human longing and need for roots and the socio-political forces that uproot people from the place where their heart belongs.

Ghazel uses ballpoint pens to create her child-like drawings of universally understood symbols such the sun, trees, houses, hearts and suitcases. But what is really interesting is that each of the drawings has been done on a map of the world. Through these drawings she makes the entire world her own. The roots and branches of her trees spread across countries, unhindered by any borders. And she builds her houses where she pleases, with no worries about immigration rules or discrimination on the basis of race or nationality. The houses are perched on top of the trees or sprout roots of their own in an attempt to find stability, permanence and belonging.

Cinema in Iran

Circulation, Censorship and Cultural Production 

A Conference at ICI Berlin
Dec 16-17

Iran is undergoing a period of socio-political transformation joined to a cultural space that despite binding censorship regulations, circumnavigates restrictive bans and, in the world of film, generates award winning, critically acclaimed masterpieces. 
In the course of this two-day conference, participants will investigate cinema in Iran as part of Iran’s rich media and cultural ecology. The conference brings together international scholars on topics, which explore:
  • The contemporary political and industrial context in which films are produced, distributed, and consumed in Iran and the ways in which formal and informal censorship structures and practices impact the industry;
  • Film as both a formal and informal information conduit in closed or censored societies;
  • Cinematic circulation and flows among and between the Iranian Diaspora and Iranians in Iran;
  • The role of Iranian cinema as public diplomacy and public debate surrounding film in Iran;
  • The political economy of film in Iran, including piracy and do-it-yourself (DIY) cinematic production such as YouTube;
  • The role of cinema vis à vis television: subject migration, professional migration, content regulation

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Reality of illusions

Art assumes a new form when artists from across the globe interpret Pablo Neruda’s poem on illusion for a multi-media show, discovers Poonam Goel

Iranian artist Malekeh Nayiny’s homecoming wasn’t an easy one. The revolution in Iran kept her away from home while she was still studying in the US. After a decade and a half, when she did fly back to Tehran to visit her ailing mother, she could never make it in time to hold her dying mother’s hand. What remained were a few personal belongings of her mother, a lonely father and a host of memories. “Two years later, my father died as well. All that was left for me were traces of their lives: Their objects, their letters and abandoned pictures from the past, evidences of their one-time presence in this world. I could not help but feel haunted by these symbols of the past and it became clear to me that they would always remain inside me. And, even though I fought to erase them from my mind, I realise how deeply I still cherish these traces that tangibly connect me to my past, each one telling me a different story of a time gone by,” says Nayiny. And that explains her photographic diptych titled ‘Traces’, with which one comes face to face in an ongoing show aptly titled ‘In You is the Illusion of Each Day’ at Latitude 28 in New Delhi.

Curated by Maya Kóvskaya, the show draws its title and thematics from the lines of the poem, Your Breast Is Enough, by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who understood our deep human need to feel intimately and inextricably connected to the world outside each of us. In an evocative essay to the show, Kóvskaya writes: “No longer were Malekeh’s illusions of self and family in sync with the world she had left behind. The rain of old family photos and the pile at her feet in the work came to represent the passage of time as well as lost time and lost people. The presence of the absent in the traces they left behind serves to underscore the ways in which the world can become a different place through the reordering of the dominant principles that gave coherence and meaning to what would otherwise simply be a mountain of meaningless matter. It is the power of illusion that enables us to tie these disparate things together into something called life.”

Hence, in each of the works in the exhibition, presented by some of the most cutting-edge artists from across the globe, illusions and their place and function in our lives serve as the dominant concept.

In Dilip Chobisa’s two untitled mixed media works that make a fine demarcation between the inside and the outside, one can find three-dimensional visual language being used to create an illusory effect. “In both works, a room in our foreground is separated from the outside by an archway that is fenced off with a length of barbed wire. In one work, a tumultuous cloudscape broods on the horizon, in the other a walkway leads to a tree that is growing in the shape of a man’s head. Inside and outside interpenetrate and bleed over the symbolically policed boundaries, placed at the gateway between worlds,” explains the curator.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

How I Learned to Stop Fearing and Love Exotic Art

JAMM, an independent art advisory, will host its inaugural exhibition in Kuwait of 40 artworks by Contemporary Arab and Iranian artists at the Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) warehouse located next door to the Life Center in industrial Shuwaikh (block 2, street 28). Curated by Ali Bakhtiari, the exhibition, entitled How I Learned to Stop Fearing and Love Exotic Art, will open on 20th November 2011.  The show will end on 10th December 2011.

Highlighting the use of writing in the field of contemporary Arab and Iranian art, JAMM”s exhibition will feature artworks that incorporate text in its various forms- calligraphy, graffiti, quotations, poems and sometimes just a single letter. Featuring works by both emerging and established Middle Eastern artists, the participating artists include Parviz Tanavoli, Hassan Hajjaj, Farideh Lashai, Katya Traboulsi, Fareed Abdal, Amira Behbehani, Shezad Dawood, Nargess Hashemi, Susan Hefuna and Farhad Moshiri.

'This is a wonderful opportunity to present the works of contemporary Arab and Iranian artists and to showcase works in various artistic media that incorporate text. The use of writing is familiar theme in the field of contemporary Arab and Iranian art. We want to highlight and celebrate that. Nevertheless, the use of the Arabic language renders the art from this region as ‘exotic’ to outsiders. In highlighting these so-called ‘exotic’ elements, we hope that viewers will question the nature of exoticism and appreciate the works, which are among the best examples from each of the artists selected. As a research-based exhibition, the selection was dependent on the works’ relevance to the theme of the show rather than the time that the works were produced;' says Sheikha Lulu Al-Sabah, co-founder of JAMM. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Scarlet Stone

Who are we to blame?! Being scattered is the fruit of the bitter seeds which we planted on this land, and now they have bloomed. Whoever has had an ideal in mind and a desire in heart, now grapples with the self in the dark black cave of separation. But the key to this big black cave ...?!  
-- Siavash Kasrai
 Scarlet Stone is a new multidisciplinary and collaborative music/dance/video work told in the language of dance-theatre to be performed in:  San Diego Mandel Weiss Forum, UCSD, November 19, 2011; and Los Angeles Freud Playhouse, UCLA, December 10 and 11, 2011.

This epic piece is based on the last work of Siavash Kasrai, Mohre-ye Sorkh (Scarlet Stone) which re-tells the most famous tragedy of Iranian mythology, namely Rostam and Sohrab. The production uses the modern rendition of Ferdowsi's ancient mythology to portray the current struggle of the people of Iran, especially those of the youth and women, in their brave quest for freedom and democracy. The goal is to make this project directly relevant to the current political and social climate of Iran and the Middle East in general. Scarlet Stone emphasizes the value of wisdom over infatuation and brings to our attention the need for all Iranians to take responsibility for the cultural, social, and political development of the country in the past 60 years.

UCSD's professor, director/composer- Shahrokh Yadegari in collaboration with French-Iranian choreographer/dancer Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam (also starring as Sohrab) have gathered some of the best performing talents of the Iranian diaspora to include Afshin Mofid - former NY ballet star (as Rostam),  Ida Saki - young rising star dancer (Gordafarid -Sohrab's lover), Mariam Peretz - Bay Area-based acclaimed dancer (Tahmineh-Sohrab's mother) and Fatemeh Habibizad, the first female Iranian Naqqal - (Epic Story Teller, Ferdowsi) for this production. Advanced interactive video designed by Ian Wallace, and stunning lighting by Omar Ramos and Kristin Hayes define the world of the story.

Similar to the artistic form of Kasrai's poem, Scarlet Stone is staged with modern aesthetics and a deep commitment to the traditional and ancient values of Persian arts. Advanced interactive technology is used for production and projection/diffusion of video and sound, which will help the integration of the multiple disciplines used in this project. With a critical view, Scarlet Stone offers strength as well as hope. One can argue that much of what is addressed in Scarlet Stone, both in terms of societal problems and solutions are alive in the current social and political movements in Iran. For many years, the only option for defining a structural basis for a social or political movement was either leaning towards the left or the right. Kasrai, having come from the leftist tradition and having been the victim of the disillusionments which followed the left movement in Iran, proudly writes a hopeful poem for facing the problems which have plagued our times. We feel the current movements in Iran (and the Middle East in general), where all sections of people have come together to voice their desire for peaceful reform and freedom, are a living example of this approach.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Others

In the November edition of the magazine Guernica Porochista Khakpour explores the protean category of “Iranian-American” and its assorted manifestations.

Photograph via Flickr by Iman Khalili
By Porochista Khakpour
There was a time, not long ago, when I was downright allergic to journal issues devoted to ethnic and/or racial grouping—about as aesthetically relevant as clusterings based on eye color or mole placement, I insisted. To be put in a box based on something you did not choose seemed uninspired, reductive, and even dangerous. Plus, I had personal reasons: categorization and its many cons had haunted me since I came to this country as a wee preschooler. With looks described as exotic at best and a hyperethnic multisyllabic name regarded as unattemptable at worst, I was coronated an ambassador of my particular brand of other just by virtue of being someone else’s first. When I was four, I decided to be a writer precisely because the realm of the imagination freed me from confinement regarding how and to whom I was born. But by the time the writing touched any remote professionalization (college workshops, for instance) I was again asked to “write what I know” by wide-eyed, smiling professors—whose “knowing better” was nestled somewhere between an oily did and flaky didn’t—and sheltered students who seemed torn between “coo” and “ew” when it came to me. By a combination of dead-end fatalism and pure accident, I went there (or at least I attempted to), merging the writing of the many whats that I knew with my interests in art, language, and slightly experimental forms (outcome: my first novel). It was only through doing it that I found I actually did have some genuine interest in who and what I was (outcome: years of personal-essay writing on Iranian-American issues).

The seesaw between Iranian and American appeared to have arrived at a miraculous balance. “Iranian-American” was not a label I could necessarily nest in, but at least one I could take a breath at. Even with its pigeonholes and pitfalls, traps and hurdles, stereotypes and caricatures and clichés, it was something I could live with, and this was more than I had ever had. So my disregard for ethnicity-focused anything was ultimately tempered by some authentic self-discovery, some admitted abnegation, and a consequential phobia of hypocrisy—and only really intensely inflamed by those starless lows of overwhelming suspicion and cynicism at everything and everyone American.

When was the last time you saw a book by an Iranian author that did not feature on its cover a Persian carpet, pomegranates, faux Middle Eastern arabesque fonts, or a woman in some sort of headscarf?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Paris Photo 2011 - Silk Road Gallery (Iran)

La Lettre de la Photographie, Festival Archive,13.11.2011

The Silk Road, Iran’s first gallery exclusively devoted to photography, opened in December 2001. Akin to its namesake, the ancient roadway through which both goods and cultures were exchanged, the Silk Road Gallery’s mission is to present to the world the photography of a new generation of Iranian artists.

A medium that communicates its message directly, photography is an art form that is accessible to everyone, at once. Moreover, in a country with such an iconic cultural history, it is truly exciting to find an art form with virtually no traditional pulls or traps on its performers. In fact, one could argue that photography is the most contemporary art form in Iran.

It is our belief that Iranian photographers have now found their own distinct style of communication, and they do transmit their vision with commitment and subtlety. One will notice that Iranian photographers always find an engaging and passionate frame of reference to tell the story of their society and political environment. Photography can and will accompany Iranian public and artists all the way to modernity.

These are the reasons that we, at Silk Road Gallery, chose to specialize in Iranian contemporary photography. Forerunner in our field, the gallery has actively helped in the development of this new artistic movement. Since its opening, many celebrated Iranian photographers, such as Bahman Jalali and Shadi Ghadirian, have started a collaboration with the Gallery that continues to this day (Bahman Jalali, passed in January 2010, is still represented by the Silk Road Gallery). Meanwhile, a younger generation of photographers work actively with us. Far from being just a commercial institution, the gallery acts as a sort of laboratory in which new ideas and experiences are exchanged, discussed and congealed.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Capturing the Imagination's Uprising

Artist Shirin Neshat Explores the Essence of Revolution With a New Play Set in Iran and a Coming Photo Exhibition

Artist Shirin Neshat in her Greene Street studio with a work for an upcoming photo exhibit of young revolutionaries. Photo courtesy of  The Wall Street Journal by Ramin Talaie

When the Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat receives Brooklyn Museum's annual Women in the Arts award next week, she will have hardly recovered from being in another spotlight.

On Saturday, Ms. Neshat's new work, "OverRuled," will conclude its two-day run at Performa 11, the West Chelsea visual-art performance space. It marks the artist's first foray into live performance, but its theme—confrontation between "people of imagination" and oppressive governments—is a staple of Ms. Neshat's creative stock.

"'OverRuled' is coming from an earlier, almost surrealistic video I made of my own personal experience of interrogation at Tehran's airport, which later departed from being about me, but about every artist—every woman or man of imagination whose work or imagination became a point of crime," Ms. Neshat said.

Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, Ms. Neshat refreshed the concept. This March, while in Cairo conducting research for her next film, about Egyptian singer Oum Kolthum, she attended protests in Tahrir Square and said she was moved by how people worked together.

"It was a peaceful revolution that should have been the model for everything else that followed," she said.

"OverRuled," a mock court that's taken over peaceably by poets, artists and musicians, seeks to be that model. Though performed by Iranians, the artist says the piece transcends that country's boundaries. "The play we're doing can be just as much about Wall Street as it is about the government of Iran," she said.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Dangerous Art of Moviemaking in Iran

Dog Sweat
By Hossein Keshavarz

“Dog Sweat” is a fictional film about young people fighting to be free in Iran. We shot the film in Tehran illegally and at great personal risk to the cast and crew because we wanted to make an authentic film that shows the surprising fun, drama and irrepressible energy of a rebellious generation.

During film school, I developed a script called “This Modern Love” about Iranians who travel to the Philippines for vacation, that explored how Iranians act on their holidays in foreign countries that have fewer social limitations.

When I was selecting cast and crew for “This Modern Love,” I became friends with a lot of the recent graduates of the film and theater programs.  I watched the projects they were making – short, underground films about their lives and their relationships. They weren’t bothering to censor their scripts to get approval from the film board.  They did this because they wanted to make films that reflected their lives, even if they knew their films wouldn’t have an audience.  Inside Iran, the films wouldn’t be shown because of their un-Islamic content; outside of Iran the festivals were only looking for very particular types of films from Iranian filmmakers.

As we were in pre-production for “This Modern Love,” which would have been filmed with the proper permissions and permits and would have featured well-known Iranian actors, my mother was in a nearly fatal car accident.  I dropped everything I was doing and focused on nursing her back to health, first in Iran, then in the United States when she was strong enough to travel.

Once I got back to Iran almost a year later, things had changed – both in the country and in terms of my own feelings.  My previous script was written at the tail end of reformist President Khatami’s term. Now it was well into Ahmadinejad’s time in office and he had already started a crackdown on artists and dissidents. While I was aiding my mother in Tehran, there were protests at the local university about the recent firings of professors for their supposed ideological leanings. At night, when I would go back to my apartment, I would see the riot police come in. And in the morning I would see students in the emergency room who were severely beaten. They would receive medical treatment, but then flee from the hospital to avoid being questioned by the police. None of it was reported on the news inside or even outside the country. This experience stayed with me for a long time. I felt like the times had changed and the script that I had spent so long on was no longer truthful to reality.

Written Images

Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East

November 10 - December 3, 2011
Sundaram Tagore Gallery , New York

The work of more than a dozen influential artists from the Middle East offers a rare glimpse into the contemporary Arab and Iranian art worlds. Written Images: Contemporary Calligraphy from the Middle East, curated by noted art historian Karin von Roques, explores the role of traditional Islamic calligraphy and symbols in the contemporary Middle Eastern consciousness.

Arabic calligraphy in all its aesthetic and linguistic complexity is little understood in the West and often regarded as an art form belonging to the classic Islamic arts and, therefore, to the past. In fact, it plays an important role in contemporary Arab and Iranian art. For centuries, the written word has been at the center of Islamic visual culture— a legacy that persists even today.

Artists including Iraqi Hassan Massoudy, and Tunisian Nja Mahdaoui were among the first to look at writing from an entirely new perspective and reposition calligraphy in the contemporary context. They have deftly expanded its potential so it is image as well as language. For them and the other artists in this show, writing is more than the legible word; they use it as a pictorial, formal element, referencing a multitude of issues—religious, social, political and personal.

Working with different media, including paint on canvas, collage, ink on paper, gold leaf and silkscreen, these artists take traditional Arabic script and symbols as their point of departure. Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad distills Arabic letters into abstract shapes and gestural marks that sweep across dreamlike mixed-media surfaces. Syrian artist Khaled Al-Saa’i is inspired by poetry and Sufi philosophy, and paints spacious landscapes in which words float, overlap and follow their own particular rhythm. Offering a nuanced view of the culture of the Middle East, these innovative artists create complex contemporary works that draw on the spiritual depth of ancient Islamic art.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Corruption of Language

Interview with Shariar Mandanipour on dissidence, censorship, and the freedom to write in Iran

HPR: Given that your work was at one point banned in Iran, how would you characterize your experience as a writer in a politically repressive country? 

Shariar Mandanipour: I’m not a political man. I studied Political Science, and maybe because I know something about politics, I hate politics. I’m a writer, but, unfortunately, in a country like Iran, being a writer, not a governmental writer…being a sort of dissident or a writer that you write for the freedom of writing, that you want to write beautiful stories. At first…they look at you as a political or as an opposition person, opposition of the regime. There are times that Iranian writers, we announce that we are not…a political party, we just need freedom of expression, and, because of it, some Iranian good writers, some Iranian good translators were assassinated. They didn’t involve [themselves] in any politic[al] matter, and a few of them [were] sentenced to prison. So the way that a dictatorial regime looks at you as a writer, they see you as an opposition [figure]. And you have no choice…even if you announce it, if you declare it, that I’m not involved in politics, they can’t believe it, and I think they are right. Because when you write against censorship, and you write about freedom and freedom of writing, freedom of expression, it is something against the dictator.

HPR: As a writer, in that sort of environment, what sort of authority or responsibility do you have to convey stories that might not otherwise be told?

SM: You know, the history of literature…engaged literature or even socialist realism literature. And I’m sure that these kind of stories, they will kill stories, they will [be] against art. You are a writer, and your job is to write a beautiful sory. You shouldn’t say to yourself that you’re going to write about the suffering that a good man is taking in a prison…If I decide to write this story…that the regime imprisons our good students…it wouldn’t be a good story. You just want to write a good story. If you are living there, if you are a human being in a country like Iran, at last it comes to your story, if you want to write a love story. The suffer[ing] of people will come into your story somehow. I’m talking about the art, not any political engagement..or any sort of socialist realism that you will feel. In Russia, before the revolution, they had great writers. After the revolution, because there were purely socialist realism stories, you don’t see any good writers. [They] were censored and [had] to publish their work underground…I know that my engagement is to write a good story. If I suffer with my people..their happiness, the beauties, or the evils that they make will all be reflected in my story.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

''Humanity Is What Art Is All About''

Interview with Mohammad Reza Shajarian

For Iranians around the world Mohammad Reza Shajarian is the embodiment of classical Persian culture. In the summer of 2009 his support of the Iranian reform movement made him vastly popular among the young generation. 

An interview by Marian Brehmer, 
You're touring Europe at the moment. Can Europeans actually understand the depth of Persian music?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: The Iranians in Europe can understand the music and its meaning. Europeans without Iranian roots can get a feel for the music, but not for the words. My music is based on poetry. All it does is to express the poem. Without knowledge of Persian literature you cannot understand the connection between music and words.

What comes to your mind when you think of Germany?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: To me, Germany is about being hard working and tidy. Since 1987, I have been performing in Germany about every second year.

In Germany, Iran's public image is shaped by politics and by the nuclear issue. Do you see yourself as an ambassador for your country when performing abroad?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: I don't know if Iranians would consider me as their ambassador or not. But our Iran is not what the government claims it is. Our people are entirely different from our government. They have nothing to do with terror and killing or nuclear power. Actually, this difference is really striking. That's why we can observe a big conflict between people and government at the moment.

In the strict sense of Islamic jurisdiction string instruments are haram, forbidden. On the other hand, Iran has a rich tradition of classical music. Although there are many gifted singers, Iranian women are not allowed to sing in public. Their voices are considered arousing by the mullah regime. How to cope with these contradictions?

Mohammad Reza Shajarian: This contradiction was created 1400 years ago. The Islamic fractions will not give up trampling on our culture, nor will Iranians give up their culture. This contradiction will continue to exist. The government is opposed to the very Persian identity of Iranians and wants to impose its Islamic identity on us. But while accepting Islam, Iranians have never lost their culture.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Art that's fit to print:

posters, lithographs in Dubai exhibitions

Recovery Plan by Thierry Guetta (aka Mr Brainwash), who featured in the British graffiti artist Banksy's film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Courtesy Pro Art Gallery

For the majority of us, picking up a print is the closest we’ll ever get to hanging work by a modern master in our homes. They may lack the glow of a true original, but signed editions are an affordable and accessible way to pack the walls with big names without stumping up big bucks for the privilege.

It is in this spirit that two Dubai galleries have assembled a collection of signed prints, lithographs and select unique pieces by some of the defining names in art from the past 100 years.

Currently at Pro Art Gallery, tucked away in Palm Strip Mall opposite Jumeirah Mosque, is Editions: Prints and Multiples, which throws together signed prints by modern masters such as Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso with street-art ­luminaries such as the stencillers Banksy and Blak Le Rat, the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein and several key figures in contemporary Chinese art.

“Prints and multiples are not only finding their true value but are also democratising the art market,” says Tatiana Faure, the director of Pro Art Gallery.

Faure refers to the strength of prints and lithograph works at auctions internationally: “Entry-level buyers and collectors have been rushing in recent years to this more affordable side of the art market. Prints and multiples offer investors with as little as a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars the chance to get into art and buy a big name.”

Highlights of the print selection include the now very familiar frozen grin of Yue Minjun, who was among the leading lights in the Chinese art boom of a few years ago and works in oil to represent his cynicism about China’s transition from communist revolution to economic giant with a bitter, strained smile.