Monday, 26 June 2017

Meet Dj Nesa, A Woman Aiding Iran’s Electronic Music Boom

An interview with the female DJ behind Deep House Tehran about the growth of the Iranian techno scene.
Courtesy Electronic Beats.
Interview by Tristan Bath, Electronic Beats

I was born and raised in Tehran, and I got into music at a very young age—when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I started playing very traditional Iranian instruments, like the tombak and dayereh drums, a string instrumental called a tar, the zither-like santoor and one non-traditional instrument: the guitar. I’ve been making music myself since 2004, but before that I was working as a DJ with lots of my own techniques. I decided to make my own music and started working in Ableton, plus a bit of Reason and Logic. But what I make is very different from what I play, and I’m still mainly known for being a DJ.

My earliest DJ gigs were actually at private events in Dubai in 2009. It was an amazing experience for me because I was used to playing only for very small groups in Iran. I was even offered a residency ­­at a club in Dubai, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay due to visa issues. My first official DJ set—one that wasn’t a private or unofficial party—was actually only a few months ago in Yerevan, Armenia. It was amazing to play in a proper club, to have that atmosphere and to play for people from so many different places. I love playing for people I’ve never met. It’s quite a contrast to playing in Iran, where there aren’t any clubs or public nightlife. All the underground music has to happen at parties at private homes. The crowds at house parties in Tehran can vary a lot, from 30 up to even 200 people. Most of the people there are Iranian, unless by chance someone has a foreign guest visiting. But other than that, Iranians make up 90 percent of the parties. As far as the atmosphere goes, I’d have to say that we all have similar problems everywhere in the world: when you mix drugs and alcohol, the chance of altercations increases. However, I do think there’s less chance of problems at parties in Iran because everyone’s usually friends.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Art of Iranian Immigrants Reveals the Creative Potential of Inclusivity

Gallery looks “Beyond the Ban” to highlight the role art can play in uncertain times.
Nahid Hagigat, “Kurdish Women in Red,” 2015, hand-painted etching from 1970s plate. Courtesy Susan Eley Fine Art and HuffPost.
by Priscilla FrankHuffPost

In January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order denying citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations entry into the United States. In the months since, multiple courts have deemed the ban unconstitutional, arguing that it discriminates against Muslims.

Yet Trump is still pushing strongly for the directive, filing an emergency request with the Supreme Court earlier this month and penning increasingly incensed tweets expressing his frustration with the Justice Department.

Not long after Trump first announced his plans for the ban, art institutions around the U.S. responded to denounce the executive order as fundamentally opposed to values of inclusion, diversity and liberty. New York’s Museum of Modern Art made its convictions known by hanging work made by artists hailing from affected nations on its walls. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College used a different approach to convey a similar message. The museum temporarily removed all artwork made by or donated by immigrants from the museum walls.

The message behind both art world protests came through loud and clear: immigrants are indispensable parts of the fabric of this country, and their contributions to American civilization and culture are invaluable.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tehran Noir: Samuel Khachikian and the rise and fall of Iranian genre films

For four decades, this innovative director made Hollywood-style movies that played to sellout crowds in Iran. After the revolution, his western inspirations fell out of favour, but a new retrospective of his little-seen work should reinvigorate his reputation.
Midnight Terror (1961). Courtesy BFI
by Ehsan Khoshbakht, BFI

The films of Samuel Khachikian have, as the director’s name suggests, a strange ambiguity. One of the father figures of Iranian cinema, Khachikian was for 40 years synonymous with popular genre films inspired by Hollywood and enjoyed by big audiences. But his formal innovations and fluid handling of genres not only expanded the possibilities of cinema, but reflect the specific social and political tensions of a country building to a revolution.

Hollywood style in modern Tehran

Khachikian was dubbed the ‘Iranian Hitchcock’, a title he disliked, and in the 1950s and 60s the premieres of films would cause traffic jams. New cinemas were opened with the latest Khachikian picture.

Khachikian’s films provide us with images of a bygone era in Iran. Cadillacs roaring through the streets; women in skirts parading to the next house party; bars open until the small hours of the morning; dancers grooving to the swing of a modernised, post-coup Tehran, which was soon to collapse into revolution. The films are part-documentary, and partly a product of Khachikian’s fantasy of an Iran which has successfully absorbed Hollywood style.

The films were unique in the way in which they could almost be passed off as foreign productions. His classic Midnight Terror (1961) was reportedly bought and dubbed by the Italians, with added name changes, to make it seem as if the story had been set in Milan. Fully aware of the deep contradictions of this encounter between cultures, however, the films manifest a sense of unease. Khachikian’s attention to the fetishistic celebration of automobiles, fashion and glamorous mansions were so many symbols through which he could reflect injustice, class conflict and identity confusion in Iran.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Iranian-American Artist Revives Islam’s Apocalyptic Goddesses

How Morehshin Allahyari is using new technologies to reclaim an ancient feminist narrative.

Images courtesy of Morehshin Allahyari and Creators - Vice.
by Catherine ChapmanCreators - Vice

Mystical goddesses and warnings of the end times are reimagined with digital technologies in the new work by Iranian-American artist Morehshin Allahyari, She Who Sees the Unknown. Taking images of supernatural female figures found in Islamic mythology—Ya'jooj and Ma'jooj—Allahyari has created a digital video artwork using 3D techniques to bring their cautionary stories to life, and reinterpreting them in what the artist calls, "a feminism activism practice."

"I find these figures and then reappropriate," Allahyari tells Creators. "I find them from different images, choose a selection, and then 3D model, print and scan them. I write narratives about them in relation to the power that they have, putting them in context to current forms of colonialism and oppression. So these female powers come to fight these current systems, going against them in a way."

Presented on the Media Wall at The Photographer's Gallery in London, Allahyari's first solo UK show expands on themes found in her previous work. Her continued series Material Speculation, for example, sees the reconstruction of ancient artifacts destroyed by ISIS in 2015, questioning the issues of ownership and access to data that arise with the new technologies that she uses.