Monday, 23 May 2016

Asghar Farhadi in Cannes: ‘Terrorists feel they have good reason to be violent'

The Oscar-winner has said he is embarrassed by the insulting mistreatment of intellectuals in Iran, and described how his new film shows how deep-seated traditionalism can turn progressive people to extreme violence
‘Terrorists feel they have good reason to be violent’ … Asghar Farhadi in Cannes. Photograph: Laurent Emmanuel/AFP/Getty Images. Courtesy the Guardian.
by Catherine ShoardThe Guardian

Asghar Farhadi, who became the first Iranian to win an Oscar, with 2011’s A Separation, has spoken out about his country’s treatment of those who could criticise the government through their art.

Speaking in Cannes after the first screenings of A Salesman, in which a teacher and actor tries to track down the man who has assaulted his wife, Farhadi said: “Intellectuals have been so insulted and mistreated in my country. It embarrasses me no end. I’m very proud of [Abbas] Kiarostami and our poets and writers,” he continued, emphasising their resilience in the face of potential censorship and maltreatment. “They’re not bogged down in any way, that’s erroneous propaganda.”

The film shows the gradual escalating of the anger felt by Emad (Shahab Hosseini) after his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), is attacked while showering by a man who may have been a client of the prostitute who previously rented their flat. Farhadi said he was interested in exploring what people felt to be proportionate vengeance.

“I’m not talking about uncontrolled violence, but pre-meditated. Sometimes you are convinced that a violent act you are going to do is justified,” he said. “Like terrorists; they feel they have good reason to be violent. Sometimes you can believe you are entitled to be violent and build up a whole body of reasons which lead up to the act. A responsible and kind man can turn into a potentially violent being.”

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Phobophobia – A Reflection

by Dr Aida Foroutan

If you have seen any of Hamed Sahihi’s previous works, then seeing this exhibition of videos and framed drawings might feel like you are having a déjà vu experience, or recognising an old friend again after a long time. Phobophobia is a new work in a new season, but it is also a continuation of Sahihi’s previous work, and to some extent it is a key to understanding what he was expressing in his previous works. As always, this artist is playful, and thought-provoking, menacing and safe, all at the same time. Hamed Sahihi has entitled this new series as a manifesto to his fears, and to all our fear. The structure of the work is simplicity itself. There are 15 frame boxes, each with a screen displaying a short video; each lasts just a minute or so, but within that minute the sequence loops on itself every 6-10 seconds. Fears repeat themselves and are in essence simple, and each video is an instance of a type of fear. Also, in antique frames the artist has picked up somewhere, there is a series of drawings, on which the videos are based, individually labelled in Persian and English, with the Greek name of the particular phobia referred to in the drawing, and a comment, for example:

‘Metathesiophobia: Change: I fear the change of things I am used to.’

But it is not just a collection of ‘fears’ in sequence – it is a presentation that has a hidden depth, with many layers to it: it confronts the viewer with fears and simultaneously challenges the idea of fear itself by turning it back on itself. ‘Phobophobia’ means ‘Fear of Fear’. In the first place, by giving classical Greek names to his personal fears he objectifies them and shows them for what they are, namely universals, which everyone can suffer from. By putting them into boxes he contains them, and perhaps even tames them. To take two examples of videos, randomly chosen (4, 7):

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

How Persian shadow theater is bringing an Iranian epic to life

Inspired by German animation and an American puppeteer, Hamid Rahmanian has turned an ancient Iranian epic into a live show. Credit: Cristoforo Magliozzi. Courtesy PRI.
by Daniel A. GrossPRI

One day last summer, Hamid Rahmanian was in his graphic design studio in New York, thinking about how to adapt a classic Persian story to the stage. Shahnameh, or “The Book of Kings,” is one of the world's longest epic poems. Rahmanian, who grew up in the Iranian capital of Tehran, had already adapted it into an intricate illustrated book. Now he wanted audiences to see it live.

“In my studio, I had a projector,” says Rahmanian. He turned it on and walked around, watching his shadow dance across the screen. He suddenly thought to himself: “This is it!” Rahmanian was already interested in shadow puppetry — and in that moment, he realized he could retell an ancient story with the modern twist of colorful, computer-designed backgrounds.

“I have a graphic design and a filmmaking background — and they can meet behind the screen, in the form of shadows,” Rahmanian remembers thinking.

With help from a team of actors and animators, including the puppeteer Larry Reed, Rahmanian ultimately designed 156 shadow puppets and 138 backgrounds. Now the show, which he calls “Feathers of Fire,” is on a tour of the United States. It's been performed in Brooklyn, Boston, and San Francisco. The next stop, on May 15, is New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; two weeks after that, it will go up in the Freud Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

In from the cold: Iran x Cuba – review

Playful seriousness abounds in this exhibition at New York’s Rogue Space gallery
Old furniture, recycled clothes, found objects, fiber stuffing (machine and hand-stitched), 222x116x118 cm. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and  the Guardian.
by Dan Geist for Tehran BureauThe Guardian

Holy Cow. The title of Allahyar Najafi’s painting captures the playful seriousness that abounds in IRAN X CUBA: Beyond the Headline. The show features work by 19 artists from two countries whose revolutions denied them the tender affections of a certain global hegemon for decades on end; now, as if love might actually trump hate in time, they have come together at New York’s Rogue Space gallery.

In Najafi’s piece, the titular bovine, sacred not only in Hinduism – the artist resided in India for several years – but in Iran’s own Zoroastrianism, weeps amid an array of other hallowed beasts. Through the ether swim a pod of Caspian seals, seemingly a personal totem for the artist, who now lives in Rasht, not far from the sea (one takes center stage in Pusa Caspica, after the animal’s Latin name). From a crook in the cow’s form stares a bald eagle, once-secular American iconography now as sanctified as the almighty dollar.

Like the two other paintings by Najafi on view, it’s a menagerie of both subject and media – thick oils encompass a flock of lenticular images, the multilayered graphics that appear to shift along with one’s viewing angle; the primary visual effect Najafi employs is stereoscopic (“two and a half dimensional,” in his nice description). Some lenticulars, of small human faces and abstract forms, peek out from the plastic sheet below the paint, while others may have been added later. There is much for the mind to play with in this work, both in meaning and in process.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Iranian Theatre remade for Australia

 'Vis And Ramin' is an ancient Persian tale of love, rebellion and political revolution remade for the modern theatre. Courtesy ABC Radio National


Presented by Michael Cathcart and Sarah KanowskiABC Radio National

Nasim Khosrav began her career staging clandestine feminist street theatre on the streets of Tehran.

She migrated to Australia in 2009 and has formed a theatre company with a group of fellow Iranian-Australians.

Their first production, Vis and Ramin, re-imagines an ancient Persian tale of forbidden love and political rebellion.

Vis and Ramin is on at Metro Arts in Brisbane from 10 to 14 May.

Nasim Khosravi: Director of Vis and Ramin; Artistic Director of Baran Theatre Company.
Roja Gholamhoseini: Actor

Sarah Kanowski

Via Books and ArtsABC Radio National

Saturday, 7 May 2016

What life looks like amid the Iranian diaspora in 'Tehranto'

Iranian refugee families enjoy a Sunday picnic at Toronto Humber Bay Park. From the left: Sarvenaz Fahimi with her daughter and Behzad Abdolahi with his dog. Hana Khanjani taking a selfie with his father Nosrat Khanjani. Arash Tavakoli and Arezoo Victor talking together. Credit: Javad Parsa. Courtesy PRI.
by Javad Parsa, PRI

I started getting into photography when I was 18 and bought my first camera with money I earned waiting tables in a restaurant in Sari, in northern Iran.

In 2005, I began taking pictures for the Fars News Agency in Iran, after I met its picture editor by chance. I came to realize though that I was born in a country where real democracy does not exist. I never imagined myself as one of the thousands of Iranians that would flee their homeland, but I had to get out of Iran in 2009. The government had issued an arrest warrant for me, after my images of the Iranian uprising that year were published abroad.

In my new life outside of Iran, I have met with many other Iranians, and developed a project to document their lives. They all have different reasons for leaving their mother country. But everyone I have spoken to hopes that one day, they can return to Iran — but to an Iran where they are allowed to vote in truly democratic elections, to speak freely, to dress the way they want and to freely practice their religion and beliefs.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Love Is Something Heavy

An interview with mixed media artist Sara Rahbar
Photograph by Arash Yaghmaian. Courtesy Autre Magazine.

Intro text by Keely Shinners; Interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper, Autre Magazine

Sara Rahbar is an artist who bravely transverses borders and permeates boundaries. Though often labeled an “Iranian American artist” (her family fled Iran in 1982 during the beginning of the Revolution), she prefers to relocate herself in a collective humanity. Transcending genre, her work ranges from photography and paint to textiles and sculpture. Rahbar’s work reflects this permeability, combining seemingly antithetical ideas – American flags sewn together with traditional Middle Eastern fabrics, hearts made out of military backpacks – in a beautiful and generative juxtaposition.

At the same time that Rahbar moves fluidly between varying geographies and ideations, she maintains immovable strength in herself and her work. She says, “I love strong things.” Here, she’s talking about working with bronze in sculpture. But this statement speaks to the artist’s attitude towards art, selfhood, and humanity at large. In a world where pervasive pain and violence can feel crippling, Rahbar is able to find peace – by going vegan, by thinking critically, and namely, by concretizing our anxieties through art.

Sara Rahbar will be showing new work from now until May 6th at NADA in New York City for Carbon 12 Dubai Gallery. We got to talk to the artist before the opening about exploring identity, documenting history through art, and communicating emotion in the age of superficiality.

OLIVER KUPPER: Your work deals a lot with conflict and identity loss. This sense of tumult has really seeped into your upbringing. Do you have really clear memories of leaving Iran during the revolution?

SARA RAHBAR: No, I really don’t. I have blacked out a lot. I left Iran when I was like four and a half or five. And I can barely remember anything from that whole time period. In the beginning people just assumed that my work was about identity because my first body of work was the flag series, but I wasn’t thinking about identity  at all when I made them, it was always about so much more than that for me.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Poster Arts of May Day: International Worker’s Day in Revolutionary Iran

May Day poster distributed by the Democratic Student’s Organization. Asheville, NC, Flood Gallery Fine Art Center Collection, “In Search of Lost Causes– Fragmented Allegories of an Iranian Revolution.” —Hamid Dabashi, PhD, The Black Mountain Press, 2013 (Photo: Carlos Steward, Flood Gallery Fine Art Center). Courtesy Ajam Media Collective.
by Rustin ZarkarAjam Media Collective

On the first of May, 1979, hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured out into the streets to celebrate International Worker’s Day. As a public festival created by the Second International to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket riots in Chicago, May Day became a holiday that was adopted by leftist organizations all over the globe.

Iranian left-wing groups began celebrating International Worker’s Day as early as the 1920s. Uninhibited after the departure of Reza Shah in 1941, many extant labor unions came together to form the Central Council of United Trade Unions (Shura-ye Motahedeh-ye Markazi) in 1944. In subsequent years, the labor movement continued to grow and May Day processions displayed the increasing power of a unified working class. During the height of Tudeh influence in the late 1940’s, May Day festivities in Tehran were attended by more than 80,000 people. However, the dominance of the labor movement was short-lived; following the coup d’état of 1953, trade unionism was virtually annihilated through bans and mass arrests. May Day processions would not be permitted until the final years of the Pahlavi era.

Free from the state repression of the Pahlavi era and well before the solidification of power under Khomeinist forces, the revolutionary period from 1979-1981 saw massive mobilization of the general populace. International Worker’s Day became an ideological battleground as competing political organizations—secular and religious—organized their constituents and articulated their interpretation of worker’s solidarity. Visual ephemera related to May Day– posters, more specifically– are testaments to the pluralistic nature of the early years of the Revolution. By looking at various posters disseminated by organizations of the time, one can see how various political factions used similar visual motifs and iconography.