Thursday, 31 August 2017

Raving Iran

 The promoter/DJs risking their lives to party 

Courtesy Mixmag. 
by Andy BuchanMixmag

Most promoters have pretty mundane problems. Which DJ to book, maybe, or how best to pacify a venue owner, or which bills they can get away with not paying. Iranian promoters have more pressing issues... like whether they would actually survive the sentence if they are caught putting on a party, or whether they have bribed a cop quite enough to allow them to dance until dawn in the Iranian desert. Iran is a country where, just recently, six music fans were given 91 lashes each for the criminal offence of singing along to Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’.

“It’s a very dangerous thing to do, and of course illegal. We haven’t been back to Iran since,” say Beard and Blade, or Anoosh and Arash as they’re now known to the authorities. Last year they featured in a documentary about their experiences as promoters inside Iran, and they’re presently touring Europe as DJs – including an appearance at Tomorrowland.

“The outdoor parties in the desert or mountains are super secret and hidden far away, in the middle of nowhere,” confirms documentary director Susanne Regina Meures. “You need to rent equipment, find a bus with a driver who is happy to bypass police stops, bribe local officials and authorities, and ultimately, find friends who are brave enough to party under such circumstances. It’s not an easy task.”

In essence, there is no club scene in Iran. Music, plays, films, novels – virtually anything artistic - must first receive authorisation and approval from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Music producers Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian were recently sentenced to six years in prison for“propaganda against the state” – or making underground music with their mates, to you and me. And there’s rapper/singer/songwriter Amir Tataloo with his 3.5 million Instagram followers, who was sentenced to five years and 71 lashes for “spreading Western immorality”. And the students busted by the police for having a house party and fined 99 lashes.

Friday, 25 August 2017

“We Carry Home within Us”

A Conversation with Laleh Khadivi & Sholeh Wolpé

Left to Right: Laleh Khadivi, Sholeh Wolpé, and Persis Karim joined around Karim’s kitchen table to discuss their contributions to Iranian diaspora literature. Courtesy World Literature Today.
by Persis KarimWorld Literature Today

Persis Karim, a poet and the editor of three anthologies of Iranian diaspora literature, is the Neda Nobari Chair of the newly established Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University. In her new position, Karim is in the unique position to provide institutional recognition for the emerging field of Iranian diaspora studies—an extension of her long career of editing and promoting Iranian American literature and curating articles and anthologies of writers of Iranian origin. She sat down with novelist Laleh Khadivi and poet and translator Sholeh Wolpé to speak about their contributions to Iranian diaspora literature and the ways that the literature of Iranian Americans is reshaping our perceptions of Iran and the diaspora.

Persis Karim: It’s great to have you in my kitchen in Berkeley for this informal conversation.

Sholeh Wolpé: Thank you for the delicious Persian lunch. You make a great herb kookoo. Perhaps you can include the recipe for WLT’s readers.

Karim: Maybe I will! But first, tell us how each of you came to writing?

Laleh Khadivi: I came to writing late, after being a filmmaker and after dropping out of medical school. I was twenty-three when I decided to try my hand at fiction. I started writing stories that came from the generation before me (my grandparents). I wanted to know who my grandparents were. By the time I was done writing the story, it had very little to do with them. It was just a portal. I had interviewed my aunts and uncles, but almost all the stories varied; they all said contradictory things. But the things they did say about the place, the atmosphere, about western Iran, and Kermanshah, those did agree. And that was very useful. And when I wanted to write the story of the protagonist, I did historical research.

Wolpé: How did you get the truth out of your relatives? There is a concept of ab-roo in Iranian culture—saving face. It is hard to get people to speak openly and honestly.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Music in Rouhani′s Iran: A change in tune?

During President Rouhani′s first term in office, musicians began to gain greater freedom in Iran. Now, they′re hoping for further alleviations for their work after Rouhani′s re-election. To date, however, musical performances have been subject to much uncertainty and even traditional religious music is a thorn in the side of hardliners. 
Officially female bands may now perform, albeit only in front of all-female audiences. Courtesy ISNA and Qantara.
by Nahid

Scholars of Islamic law disagree on how to judge music and that controversy is reflected in Iranian politics. While moderate and reform-oriented forces close to the president allow concerts, the hardliners try to prevent musical performances through all means at their disposal. Yet they too know that the Iranians don′t want to go without music – so they use it for their own purposes wherever possible.

″The Ahmadinejad era was a big shock for Iranian music,″ admits composer Karen Keyhani. ″The state broadcaster still takes a negative stance towards music. At the same time, any musical activity in Iran is related to major uncertainties due to the sustained restrictions. ″ Iran′s state broadcasting company is dominated by ultra-conservatives.

Restrictions, disruptions or even bans of concerts have become a matter of course in Iran, Keyhani regrets. ″There are groupings who won′t even tolerate religious songs by Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, the maestro of traditional vocals.″ No wonder then that many Iranian musicians have turned their backs on the country over the past few years. Keyhani himself has performed in various countries such as Switzerland, Italy and the USA.

The chairman of the Iranian non-governmental organisation Khaneye Moussighi (House of Music), which represents musicians′ interests in the country, described the situation in an interview with the ILNA news agency in early June: ″When it comes to music, it′s as though we′re living in a feudal country. Someone is constantly flexing their muscles and acting as they please. It not only threatens artists′ existence, it taxes their mental health.″

In Serbian Refugee Center, a ‘Little Picasso’ Dreams of Art and Asylum

Farhad Nouri, second from right, who is nicknamed Little Picasso, with his family in a refugee center in Krnjaca, Serbia. Photo by Marko Risovic, courtesy The New York Times.
by Matthew Brunwasser, The New York Times

In a shabby refugee center on the outskirts of Belgrade, an Afghan artist nicknamed Little Picasso spends his days sketching and dreaming while living in limbo, seemingly immune to the deepening sense of hopelessness and despair all around him.

The artist, Farhad Nouri, a 10-year-old boy who lives with his parents and two younger brothers in a small room at a former Yugoslav military barracks that houses more than 600 migrants and refugees, has been celebrated in Serbia and beyond. Fans speak of his extraordinary artistic ability. He had his first exhibition this month, organized by the Refugees Foundation, a group based in Belgrade.

But the story of Farhad — a smart, lanky boy with and a quick smile — is more than an unexpected bright spot in grim circumstances. It shines a light on forgotten asylum seekers and suggests the untold potential lost among migrants stranded along the Balkan route to Western Europe.

“Farhad is such a striking example of all the talent and human potential that is being wasted and put on hold among these thousands of people who are stranded,” said Elinor Raikes, the European regional director of the International Rescue Committee.

“You can’t overestimate the extent to which having zero control and zero ownership over your own future will affect your psychosocial well being,” she said.

The Nouris are among the 4,700 asylum seekers who the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates are living in Serbia. While Europe offers no clear avenues for asylum seekers to find a future in the West, the Balkan governments are still largely treating them as temporary residents.

Sedentary Fragmentation: Toward a Genealogy of Chicago’s Iranian Art Scene

Mapping out Chicago’s legacy of Iranian-American art:
Iranian-Assyrian student Hannibal Alkhas jumped from one part of the brain to the other when he ditched his medical studies to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952. After studying under a number of faculty members including painter Boris Anisfeld, Alkhas returned to Iran and revamped the art programs at the University of Tehran.  So began a steady stream of Iranian artists like Mehdu Hosseini who made their way to SAIC. The 1979 Islamic Revolution kicked this number up a notch, and soon second- and third-generation Iranian-Americans began to use art as a way of navigating their dual heritage. “Sedentary Fragmentation” at Heaven Gallery traces this lineage and unites several Iranian voices, generations and alumni who studied at SAIC.  Kimia Maleki curated this nine-person show, which includes work from Alkhas himself.  “I'd say this is the first time that these Iranian and Iranian-American artists are showing their work together,” Maleki says. “You’ll see how they all had different experiences of being categorized as ‘exotic’ in the art scene.”  Joining the late Alkhas is Maryam Hoseini, who examines the relationship between the body and architecture — fitting subject material for an exhibition concerning national identities — and Yasi Ghanbari, an interdisciplinary artist whose practice with media mimics the show’s intercultural exchange. Via Chicago Tribune 
Hannibal Alkhas “Portrait of Buna Alkhas”, 1974. Courtesy of Heaven Gallery and Ajam Media Collective.
by Alex Shams, Ajam Media Collective

In 1951, a young Iranian man named Hannibal Alkhas moved from Tehran to Chicago, where he spent the next decade studying at the Art Institute of Chicago under the instruction of Russian painter Boris Anisfeld.

After his return to Iran, Alkhas went on to teach Fine Arts at the University of Tehran and established Iran’s first modern art gallery. True to his Assyrian lineage – his uncle Jean Elkhas is one of the most influential Assyrian poets of the 20th century – he named it Gilgamesh, after the ancient Mesopotamian epic hero.

Alkhas moved back and forth between the US and Tehran for the next half-century, building a life between the two that was informed by and influenced both. Alkhas maintained steadfast anti-imperialist political views throughout his life in both countries.

After the 1979 Revolution he became famous for painting the first murals on the US Embassy following the hostage crisis, when Islamist students stormed what they considered a “den of spies.” Among the murals were depictions of victims of the Shah’s secret police, key scenes of popular mobilization, as well as scenes from the takeover of the Embassy itself. These murals initiated a program of painting across Tehran headed by Alkhas that integrated elements of modernism, Soviet realism, and Latin American muralism that remain today highly influential in Iranian mural painting.

Alkhas is well-known in the Iranian art scene for daring experimentation in his work exploring emotion and the human condition. Less well-remembered, however, is the role the Art Institute of Chicago played in shaping his understanding of painting, sculpture, and modernism, and the continuing role this institution plays in Iranian and Iranian-American artistic production.

Iranian cinema: Iranian heritage and sentimental self-censorship

Review of Iranian films and the phenomenon of Persian art

Kazan director and columnist of Realnoe Vremya Renat Khabibullin who, by the way, will participate in the upcoming Festival of Muslim Cinema talks about the phenomenon of Iranian cinematography. In this op-ed column written for Realnoe Vremya online newspaper, he shows the evolution of Persian film art, finds salient features of Iranian masters' films and considers uneasy relations of directors with the regime in the Islamic republic.

Photo: Courtesy Realnoe Vremya.
by Renat Khabibullin, Realnoe Vremya

Development of Persian cinema: from Odessa and Rostov towards Italian neo-realism

Nowadays the cinematography of the Islamic Republic of Iran is probably the most curious area of research for film experts and critics. Not only the ethnic component but rather those principles and foundations that dominate in Iranian cinema are curious.

Cinematography appeared in Iran in the early 20th century like everywhere. As a rule, the first cinemas showed works brought from Odessa and Rostov-on-Don. In the future, communist ideas of Soviet Russia became one of the reasons why western cinematography drove the Soviet one out from Tehran's screens. Iran, Persia back then, started to make films a bit later than Russia. Ovanes Oganyan shot the first live-action film called Abi and Rabi in 1931. Students of the first film school of the capital that very Oganyan opened performed roles there.

As strange as it might be, Iranian cinematography did not play any significant role in world cinema then. Persia's rich cultural heritage became a basis for the creation of objects of art with the language of cinematography in this country many times but did not have any big wins in this field.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Inspired by lingerie, Iranian artist in East Haddam explores perceptions of women worldwide

Which Pair Are Yours? (Coalition) Colored pencils, 2014, 12.5 x 15.5 inches, by Azita Moradkhani. This drawing is about women's vulnerability and, at the same time, their power. While lingerie has a powerful role in sexual enticement, it is also extremely delicate barrier against sexual violence. Women are much the same way: we are powerful because of our willingness to struggle in spite of our constant vulnerability of being violated. Also, the string of pearls in the design of this specific lingerie refers to the story of vagina dentata (vagina with teeth) that talks about the power of the vagina to give birth to you -- or possibly kill you. That's the meaning of the world for me; the paradox between these different notions. Courtesy the artist.
by Cassandra DayThe Middletown Press

Deep in the woods in the Millington section of town sits 450 acres of preserved forest and marshland — a retreat that, since 2001, has been a temporary home to a multidisciplined and constantly changing enclave of artists.

I-­Park is an artists-in-residence program offering free four-week residencies in visual arts, architecture, moving image, music composition/sound art, creative writing and landscape/ecological design.

The campus is bordered by Devil’s Hopyard State Park, the Nature Conservancy and East Haddam Fish and Game Club — all whose missions of land stewarding and preservation align with that of I-Park’s, said executive director and co-founder Joanne Paradis.

Iranian visual artist Azita Moradkhani, 31, packed up everything in her Boston home of five years and came to I-Park a week ago, the start of year-long back-to-back residencies she has lined up.

Inspired by her first visit to a Victoria’s Secret store in the United States, Moradkhani uses delicately drawn images of women’s undergarments to showcase the public-private concept of women’s bodies and violence against women.

“Lace is a big part of my work. I was thinking about the pressure on women and censorship in some countries, but also noticed the impression it has on a female’s body in different cultures,” said Moradkhani, who incorporates lingerie in her drawings “to talk about a more hidden story.”

"When it Dawned"

Iran opposition leader’s daughter held painting exhibition

Narges Mousavi an Iranian artist and daughter of Mir Hossein Mousavi stands during her exhibition in “House of Free Designers” art gallery in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. The daughter of Iran’s opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since early 2011, is holding a painting exhibition in Tehran. Courtesy Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press, via Washington Post. 
by Amir Vahdat, Associated Press

The daughter of Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since early 2011, hides her pain behind abstract watercolor paintings of birds and blossoms — but bullets and bars are never far away.

That's according to Narges Mousavi's latest art exhibition, which opened on Friday [August 11] in Tehran.

The display, entitled "When it Dawned," is the second public showing of her art since her father was placed under house arrest along with another opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi.

The two led Iran’s Green Movement and street protests challenging then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election. No charges have been raised against Mousavi and Karroubi. Both are 75 years old.

At the exhibition’s opening at the “House of Free Designers” gallery in Tehran, Narges said her paintings are “about the contrast between coarseness of war and elegance of peace.”

In the cream-colored world of her art, birds sing, flowers blossom and “invisible angles in the sky and on the ground turn cruelty of the material world into kindness.”

“I attempt to conceal the agony brought about by weapons and missiles with a poetic touch,” she said.

But thin and sharp lines slice through some of the work. One depicts a mother holding her slain son as she cries.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


Iranian-American Painter’s exhibition at SECCA provides visual revelations while highlighting hidden messages and nefarious political agendas

“Shooting the Edge,” 2017, Acrylic on Canvas, 213 x 274 cm, by Taha Heydari. Heydari’s work, in an exhibition titled “Subliminal,” can be seen at SECCA. Image courtesy the artist and Winston-Salem.
by Tom Patterson, Winston-Salem Journal

In his visually engaging, thematically charged exhibition at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary art, Iranian-American artist Taha Heydari ingeniously turns the traditional medium of painting into a critical lens on timely issues with international implications.

Instead of taking his visual cues from unmediated “real life,” Heydari bases his paintings on digital imagery, usually in varied states of pixilation and degradation, as witnessed in video broadcasts subjected to interference or a weak signal. In some cases he throws in traditional Islamic design motifs, computer-generated patterns, linear screen grids and painterly brushstrokes.

The results of this varied mix are distinctive paintings whose visual distortions, scrambled images and other enigmatic qualities metaphorically underscore cautionary, underlying messages about political repression, covert operations and other authoritarian modes of socio-political control.

The show’s title, “Subliminal,” alludes to visual and/or auditory stimuli that recipients perceive without being consciously aware of them — “Hidden Persuaders,” as journalist Vance Packard called them 60 years ago in his popular book of that title. Corporations and governments use subliminal tactics fairly often in mass-media efforts to manipulate the expectations and desires of consumers, voters and political subjects.

Heydari simultaneously employs and implicitly criticizes these tactics in this show’s 20 paintings, half of which were specially commissioned for this show by SECCA’s former curator Cora Fisher, who organized it. Heydari’s clear aim, aside from making visually compelling art, is to heighten viewers’ abilities to recognize and resist such corporate and political manipulation.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Comics and Calligraphy: British-Iranian artist Jason Noushin – in conversation

Diaspora artist bursts onto international art scene with found paper and Persian script mash-ups. 

Multidisciplinary artist Jason Noushin employs antiquarian paper, discontinued bank notes and vintage comic book leaves alongside calligraphy to emerge with works examining socio-political narratives. 
Jason Noushin, ‘Ils Sont Fous Ces Romainsi’, 2017, oil, shellac, ink, pencil, turmeric and comic book leaves on linen, 48 X 48 in. Image courtesy the artist and Art Radar.
by Lisa Pollman, Art Radar

British-Iranian artist Jason Noushin is a self-taught artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the world, including CONTEXT Art Miami, Yale University and the Courtyard (United Arab Emirates). Currently, the artist’s work is on exhibition at Susan Eley Fine Art through 30 August 2017 and will be a part of Magic of Persia’s “Magic in Monaco Fundraising Event”.

Noushin was recently part of acclaimed group show “The Ocean Can Be Yours”  at the Gerald Moore Gallery in London, curated by Janet Rady. As Ms Rady told Art Radar, his collages were chosen due to their “unique” combination of sources:
I was particularly attracted to the fact that whilst he uses Persian script, the words he writes in his paintings are actually English taken from English poets and texts.  Similarly, in his portraits of Persian poets on manuscript pages from the Bible, he is blending the combination of Iranian and Western traditions.  In this way, he is speaking equally to both audiences in a unique and original manner.
Art Radar caught up with Noushin to learn more about his early years growing up in one of Tehran’s most well known contemporary art galleries and how this experience living between cultures continues to influence his work.