Monday, 27 February 2012

'A Separation' Wins Oscar in First for Iranian Film

A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin), written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, won Iranian cinema's first Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony, held in Hollywood Sunday night. Since 1956, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instituted a regular, competitive award for the best feature-length film produced outside the United States with predominantly non-English dialogue, A Separation had been only the second Iranian picture to garner even a nomination, following Majid Majidi's 1997 film Children of Heaven.

Accepting the award, Farhadi said, "At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us. And I imagine them happy.... Happy because the name of their glorious country, Iran, is spoken through culture.... They are people who respect all cultures and civilizations and reject all hostilities and resentments."

A Separation previously won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Foreign-Language Film at the Golden Globe Awards, as well as top honors from many critics' groups, including the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. For more on the context in which the film was made and received in Iran, see this report by Tehran Bureau correspondent Ali Chenar. For appraisals of the film itself, see this review by TB senior editor and arts critic Dan Geist and this response by one of our regular contributors.

Via Tehran Bureau and YouTube

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

No Subject...!

A group show of 10 young Iranian artists living and working in Iran has left the freedom to the artists to share their latest thought provoking ideas.

Curated by Vida Heydari

Opening reception at 7pm on Feb 22, 2012 The exhibition will continue for three weeks at 1x1 art gallery in Al-Qouz, Dubai.

Amirali Ghasemi will be unveiling his new "Deconstructing White" series of digital photographs and graphics. Deconstructing certain objects, he is inviting us to unwind and find practical solutions against violence.

Mattresses, once a place for sweet dreams, love making and peace, have become cots of thorns and worries in Kambiz Sabri's works. Dry and non-resilient even the childhood memories have taken a new shape, filled with screaming voices wanting to erupt and let loose. Yet still not having lost the very essence of purity, his sculptures send us a message of hope that change is not so unattainable. Coming out of their confined self-made spaces, the men in Sabri's works are finding their way to new horizons and reaching their dreams.

Katayoun Karami's work is about breaking certain dogmatic behaviors. She is being the change she wants to see in the world by breaking her own image.

Grey Art Gallery’s Enhanced Database of Modern Art from Iran, with Annotated Bibliography

by Caitlin McKenna, IFA NYU M.A. ’11, former Graduate Assistant, Grey Art Gallery, NYU; and Curatorial Assistant, Arts of Asia, Africa and the Islamic World, Brooklyn Museum

Part One

Siah Armajani, Sealed Letter, 1964. Acrylic, ink, string, and sealing wax, 10 1/4 in. x 13 in. Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection, Gift of Abby Weed Grey

While the Grey Art Gallery regularly organizes loan exhibitions, it is also home to an “in-house” landmark—the Abby Weed Grey Collection of Modern Art from the Middle East and South Asia. This collection, one of the most comprehensive of modern art from Iran outside the Middle East, comprises works by Iranian artists working in the pre-revolutionary period of the 1960s and ’70s. It includes examples by many well-known figures of the Iranian art scene, such as Siah Armajani, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Faramarz Pilaram, Parviz Tanavoli, and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. As Graduate Assistant at the Grey during 2010, I wrote “chat” labels for about forty of the works in Mrs. Grey’s collection and compiled an annotated bibliography on modern and contemporary art from Iran. I am happy to announce their publication on the Grey’s website, to discuss the nature of the project, and to share a few personal reflections.

For readers unfamiliar with the collection’s history at NYU: Mrs. Grey was a philanthropist from Minneapolis who amassed a substantial collection of modern art from the Middle East and Asia, about one-fifth of it from Iran. While it may be difficult to imagine the international art scene before the recent upsurge of interest in the “global contemporary,” Mrs. Grey’s interests were unique in the 1960s and ’70s. She eventually chose NYU as the home for her collection, endowing the Abby Weed Grey Art Gallery and Fine Arts Library. Selected works from Mrs. Grey’s collection were on view during the gallery’s inaugural exhibition in 1975 and were included in the groundbreaking exhibition "Between Word and Image: Modern Iranian Visual Culture" presented by the Grey Art Gallery in 2002. The latter exhibition’s accompanying publication, Picturing Iran: Art, Society, and Revolution, edited by Shiva Balaghi and Lynn Gumpert with contributions by Fereshteh Daftari, Haggai Ram, and Peter Chelkowski (I.B. Tauris, 2002) remains one of the most comprehensive scholarly treatments of the subject. Along with the database of the Iranian works from Mrs. Grey’s collection that appeared on the Grey’s website in 2007, the research begun with “Between Word and Image” formed the basis of my project to publish in more detail this important resource for the study of Iranian art.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Sister Act From Iran Promotes Pop Music in Era of Repression

By Kristen McTighe, The New York Times

The sisters Melody and Safoura Safavi blend Iranian soul rhythms with reggae, rock, ska, and flamenco, singing in their native Farsi, plus English, Spanish and Swedish. Their lyrics, at once humorous and rebellious, speak of love and politics. 

They call their music Persian World Pop, for want of a better description.
“We really don’t know what else to call it. It is so far away from what people are used to,” Safoura Safavi, 29, said during an interview late last year before a concert in Stockholm. “For Iranians who haven’t heard reggae, sometimes they will ask if I’m even singing in Farsi at all.” 
Born in a country where so-called Western music is deemed satanic and women are banned from performing solo, the Safavi sisters have fought to reach Iran with their music from abroad.

At the same time, with international media coverage of Iran regularly dominated by the country’s violent repression of internal dissent, its nuclear ambitions and the consequent international sanctions and confrontations, the sisters are part of a different Iranian world that struggles for visibility behind the headlines: a flourishing underground music scene, both at home and abroad, which has remained resilient despite rigid theocratic restrictions on musical expression.

They face another challenges, too, in the scattered lifestyles of their band: Safroua lives in Stockholm and travels frequently to Spain; Melody lives in New York; other band members live in cities across Sweden.

“In the beginning it was a family project, something that my sister and I did for fun,” Melody Safavi, 36, said by telephone, referring to their band Abjeez, which is Persian slang for “sisters.” “Then, when we started getting all this positive feedback from people in Iran, we realized we could really touch people with our music.”