Thursday, 17 November 2016

Iran art exhibition uses culture to bridge Middle East divides

Courtesy The Iran Project.
Najmeh BozorgmehrFinancial Times | Via The Iran Project

The Land of the Solidities, an abstract oil painting of a fully veiled Arab woman by Mounirah Mosly, a Saudi artist, hangs near an untiled piece by the late Sohrab Sepehri, one of Iran’s best known poets and painters.

The fact that the works are displayed at the same exhibition in Tehran provides a rare show of bonhomie in a region blighted by conflict and bitter rivalries. For Iran the event is unique — it is the first time that the predominantly Persian state has hosted such a public display of Arab art.

The organisers touted it as an opportunity to use culture to bridge some of the regional divides, and it is notable that two works from Saudi Arabia — Iran’s regional foe — are on the display.

Karim Sultan, curator at the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation that put on The Sea Suspended exhibition, says the exhibition is about “continuing the conversation with the Arab world.”

Ehsan Rasoulof, the director of Mohsen Gallery, one of Iran’s avant-garde art galleries, concurs, saying art should transcend the Middle East’s problems.

“In this crisis-hit region where we live, an art dialogue is the responsibility of artists, despite all the tensions between us and our neighbours,” Mr Rasoulof says.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic in January after its embassy in Tehran was ransacked by Iranian hardliners protesting against the Saudi government’s execution of a dissident Shia cleric. Iran and Saudi Arabia — the region’s dominant Shia and Sunni powers respectively — back rival sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen as they fight proxy wars, and are blamed for stoking sectarian tensions across the Arab world.

Friday, 11 November 2016

From Iran to Guatemala: How Women Are Driving Music’s Political Revolution

Courtesy Noisey.
by Emma GarlandNoisey

Whether its navigating a warzone, or becoming a public figure in a violent patriarchal society, these artists are using their music to become important voices of the times we live in.
A young girl is pictured counting rosary beads in a church. A male voiceover crackles: "Some of you may become somewhat uncomfortable as parts of this film unfold". A Presbyter, visible only from the neck down, uses a perfectly manicured hand to give the girl a small pink pill as a communion offering. In comes the music: a thumping electronic beat reminiscent of both Scissor Sisters and Le Tigre, before a woman's voice cuts in shouting, "Does your vagina have a brand? Let your vagina start a band!"

This is how a recent music video from now notorious activists Pussy Riot begins. Titled "Straight Outta Vagina​", it is intended as both a celebration of all that is female-presenting, and a confrontational riposte to Donald Trump's "grab them by the pussy" remarks. The name "Pussy Riot" is now internationally recognised, their brightly-coloured balaclavas a symbol of opposition, feminism, and LGBTQ+ rights. It can be easy to forget that Tolokonnikova and fellow founding member Maria Alyokhina spent 16 months in Mordovia penal colonies on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

Where nothing is allowed, yet anything is possible

Ramita Navai: ″City of lies. Love, sex, death and the search for truth in Tehran″

Survival in Tehran is a matter of lying and bending the rules. In the Iranian theocracy, real life is conducted in secret. Nadja Schluter reports on what else we can learn from the wonderful book on Iran, "City of Lies
Young Iranian women in front of a shopping mall in Tehran′s northwest (photo: Getty Images/AFP/ B. Mehri. Courtesy Qantara.
by Nadja

This book is populated by an army of standardised noses. They are slender and dainty and well-formed – because almost all of them were operated on by a cosmetic surgeon. But now and again, a natural and characterful nose appears and stands out from the crowd. The one belonging to Ana, for example, a single woman in her late 20s: "She was one of the few Iranian women with an imperfect nose, the one she was born with, a noble, sharply angular nose, which had become the proud hallmark of her strength and individuality." And this, although relatives, friends and even strangers on the street have urged Ana "to have her nose altered to a more acceptable, marriage-friendly size."

The noses are just one of the wonderfully observed details in the literary reportage volume ″City of lies. Love, sex, death and the search for truth in Tehran″. In eight portraits, the British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai observes the lives of the citizens of Tehran, forced to subjugate themselves to the strictest of regulatory regimes – as imposed by their country and their religion – and exposed to so much social pressure to conform, that a perfectly normal nose can have so much symbolic clout. That young people dancing on the street equates to a mass rebellion. That a picnic on the side of a four-lane highway signifies freedom.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Iranian-American Tackles Big Brother with Performance Art

Amy Khoshbin, Gold Lady: Terror Level Five, Eyes Open, Photo by Corbin Ordel. Courtesy the artist and The Creators Project.
by Kara Weisenstein, The Creators Project

Advocacy, coupled with an interrogation of her cultural heritage, is at the soul of Iranian-American artist Amy Khoshbin's video and performance art. She’s currently in residence at Mana Contemporary, as part of Mana BSMT, the museum’s collaborative hub supporting emerging artists, where her performative installation The Myth of Layla is on view through November 12.

The artist grew up hearing stories of Iran from her dad that today sound like fairytales. In his youth, the country was a bohemian idyll. “When my dad was living there, it was like Paris. There were artists going there all the time. Robert Wilson, Philip Glass, and all these people... It was a really cool time to be in Iran,” Khoshbin tells The Creators Project.