Thursday, 27 June 2019

Against The Sun

Tahereh Fallahzadeh With Fia Backström At Baxter St, New York

Tahereh Fallahzadeh. Untitled, 1997.  ©Tahereh Fallahzadeh. Courtesy Baxter St and Forbes.

The enemy of photography is the convention . . . the salvation of photography comes from the experiment.” Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion.

The first known photographer who arrived in Iran was Jules Richard, a French language tutor. He took daguerreotypes of Mohammad Shah and his son, the crown prince, Naser al-Din Mirza. The latter, took a serious interest in photography after his coronation as Shah in 1848. Within a decade, new photographic techniques were introduced in Iran by the several photographers active in Tehran. Fascinated by photography and its potential, the Shah created the position of a court photographer, and the Gulistan Palace was equipped with a darkroom and photographic studio.

By the 1870s, there were several independent photographers in Tehran, including Antoin Sevruguin, who made photographs at a time:
. . . when orientalist fervor was at its height and Europeans were using photographic images to construct and confirm their notions of the Orient . . . Sevruguin used his camera to construct counter-representations. . . [and] allowed the people in front of his camera to compose themselves according to how they themselves wished to be seen, according to their own myths and realities. (Iranian Studies, 35:1-3, 114.)

Sevruguin’s photographs of landscapes and people were published in international newspapers, magazines and books as early as 1885. Trained as a painter, Sevruguin also tended to manipulate his photographs, personalizing and enhancing their dramatic effects by retouching them.

Three women artists rewriting the troubled history of feminism in Iran

Dazed spoke to Azadeh Fatehrad, Rana Javadi, and Maryam Tafakory about the complicated history of women’s rights in Iran and how they use their work to address it
Departure Series – 1, 2015, Azadeh Fatehrad. C-Type matt print on fuji crystal archive photographic paper. 70 x 104 cm. Courtesy Dazed.

by Lizzy Vartanian CollierDazed

Given the socio-political and cultural restrictions in Iran, feminism is not a topic for open discussion within the country’s history. It has been a difficult subject for centuries regardless of governmental power, while in the west, the representation of Iranian women is often simplified and misunderstood. Despite this, Iran has a long history of consciousness of the role of women in society. Women’s rights organisations have been present since the beginning of the 20th century: Sediqeh Dowlatabadi’s Women’s Association of Iran was established in 1911, and the bi-weekly magazine Zaban-e Zanan (Women’s Voice) founded in 1919, which she edited, was one of a number of female-run publications advocating for women’s education and equality. During the 1970s, after many years of challenges, the Women’s Organisation in Iran eventually succeeded in winning equal rights for women in marriage and divorce, as well as legalising abortion and equal pay for work (abortion was not legalised nationwide in the United States until 1973). However, the grassroots organisations could not establish those rights within all classes of society, even though it was considered a new social code for all women of Iran. That said, much of this history about Iranian women’s rights is not acknowledged today in Iran.

In an exhibition that has just opened at London’s Danielle Arnaud gallery, Iranian-born, London-based artist Azadeh Fatehrad (born 1981) is exploring the history of the feminist movement in Iran through a series of multimedia installations. “What I have filmed was removed from history books when I grew up in Iran,” explains Fatehrad, adding that her work aims “to provide the viewer with the right context and the full picture”. She continues: “This is what happened to the history of feminism and I try to avoid labelling otherwise or celebrating one government over another, both Pahlavi or Islamic republic rule of conducts have been of violation towards women.” From a departure point of how the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925 – 1979) and the Islamic Revolution (1978 – 1979) have altered the way that female artists in and outside of Iran have addressed the notion of femininity, we spoke to Fatehrad as well as two other Iranian women artists based both inside – Rana Javadi – and outside of Iran – Maryam Tafakory – about how their work tackles the status of womanhood within an Iranian context.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Muslim female artists reflect on identity and a sense of belonging in Manchester

Five contemporary artists share their views on being Muslim for the 'Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today' exhibition in Manchester

Aida Foroutans ‘Separation’ appears in the exhibition. A wall (which is becoming a tree) divides and connects two people: they are in the same enclosed space, indicated by a shared window, colours and background. The scene is archetypal: their gender divides them, and their bodies form part of the wall. It is one of the instances where I use straight lines in a painting. A significant feature of this painting cannot be seen in 2D, as the wall is actually built up in paint, and the whole canvas is heavily textured. Light in the picture is an inversion of ‘reality’, coming not from the window but from the ground. We are looking into a private space that has been opened up to view. Separation is an essential theme in Sufi literature: being torn apart is meant at the highest level of mystical understanding, and that too is part of the human condition, as Rumi says: ‘Listen to this reed as it is grieving; it tells the story of our separations…’

by Ben East, The National

Growing up in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, Robina Akhter Ullah, 57, felt unique, a curio, even. “I was always the first,” remembers the artist. “The only Muslim in high school, in college, getting a degree. I was always trying to prove I belonged, that it didn’t matter that I was brown. I could fit in. But though I could change my voice,” she says, in a distinctive Mancunian drawl, “I couldn’t change my skin colour.” She says it didn’t matter where she was from, she was always subjected to racist remarks.

The epithet cuts through the gallery space in Manchester where Ullah is hanging her contribution to a fascinating group exhibition. But her reflections on identity and memory are a key part of Beyond Faith: Muslim Women Artists Today.

It’s long overdue survey of five contemporary artists, who practise or have trained in the north-west of England; none are household names in the art world. But in a way that’s the whole point of this exhibition – it’s the result of an academic research project by the University of Manchester, which has posed important questions about how Muslim women are represented in the cultural and creative industries.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Iranian cartoonist on the drawings that saved his life

Cartoonist Ali Dorani fled Iran at the age of 21 before becoming trapped in Australia's controversial Manus Island detention camp for four years - but things changed after his artwork was posted online.

Here's his story - in his own words and drawings.
The drawing that was exhibited in Melbourne. Courtesy EatenFish and BBC News.
by Helier Cheung, BBC News

In 2013, I left Iran. I can't tell you why because it might affect my family's safety - but I knew my life was in danger.

I stayed in Indonesia for 40 days, and tried to get to Australia - I knew Australia was the best way for me to get to safety.

A people smuggler told me he could get us to Australia by boat.

When I saw the boat, I was afraid I would die. It was a fishing boat, not really well maintained, and there were about 150 of us. And I can't swim.

When the time came to get on the boat, I told myself: "This is it. If anything happens to that weak boat, I'm going to die."

The journey took us 52 hours - it was raining and the ocean wasn't normal. It was so scary.

The Australian navy intercepted us and took us to Christmas Island - a detention centre where Australia keeps asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Inside Iranian Artist-Collector Fereydoun Ave's Paris Apartment

The various homes of artist, critic, curator and art patron Fereydoun Ave are akin to visual diaries where artwork and design objects mix in lively aesthetic feast, writes Rebecca Anne Proctor

Apline grey canapé, Chinese Buddha from the 16th century and artworks by Afshan Daneshvar, Fereydoun Ave and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi. Courtesy of Sebastian Böttcher and Harper's Bazaar.
 by Rebecca Proctor, Harper's Bazaar

It’s a cool wintry evening in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the upscale French commune just west of Paris. Fereydoun Ave’s apartment is dim-lit and cosy – an artistic refuge against a forlorn night sky in the heart of winter. Anyone well versed in Middle Eastern art will be familiar with Ave’s tireless work. The artist-cum-curator opens the door, his signature dark-rimmed glasses greeting me in from the unfamiliar cold outdoors, and my first proper meeting with the man considered a legendary promoter of Iranian artists begins. “The big word to describe what I do is collage,” says Ave as he makes me some tea. The various interconnecting rooms of his apartment are very much decorated along that strand – “a collage” of a multitude of artworks, furniture, books, paper and objects.

They seem to be have been displayed in their current location gradually over time. “I am 74 years old and I have been through various stages and various countries and various fashions but what interests me now is to have stuff around me that stimulates me,” says Ave. “I don’t collect based on what is most expensive next year or from a chronological or historical point of view but always based on line, colour and feeling.” And while the general ambiance of Ave’s Parisian abode is well kept and orderly, there a slight sense of clutter not unlike what one would find in an artist’s studio. “The background of my home is a lot based on how one creates a picture,” he continues. “The rest is assemblage and collage. The apartment has grown over time. “You start from the basics and it keeps growing if you are a collector.”

Bookcases line the walls as do Ave’s various works on paper and canvas. These are interspersed with a 16th-century Chinese Buddha sculpture, Le Corbusier furniture, works by Iranian greats such as Hossein Zenderoudi, Farshad Moshiri, Reza Aramesh, Afsan Daneshvar and Shahla Hosseini, and pieces by his dear friend, late artist Cy Twombly. Situated around an ever-expanding display of objets d’art are also variously placed taxidermy owls.

Body Politics in Iranian Art - Episode 1

"Formless, Female"
Ghazaleh Hedayat, The Sound of my Hair. Courtesy Aesopia.

by Dafne GotinkAesopia

In the last few years, the international art world has taken up a fascination for Iranian art, making exhibitions of this art outside Iran more and more common. Iranian contemporary artists seem to have especially been gaining popularity among a western audience, often because of a politically critical stance and rejection of the strict Islamic laws in the country, which appeal to a western sense of relatability. The exhibited art is often seen as a brave counter culture against a regime that does not have the best image in western countries. But in the middle of all this attention, I feel there is a lack of contextualizing, international research on this art, especially when it is involved with politics. If we want to understand how a work of art can be subversive, provocative, or a threat to those who are in power, we have to examine how it acts against the logic of the dominant power structure. In other words, provocation depends entirely on context and the norms of the society it is based in. This knowledge seems to be little, if not absent, in the hype around many Middle Eastern artists in the West. Which is tragic if we realize that art inside Iran, even though thriving, is subjected to the watchful eyes and control of the authorities. If we want to grant some liberation to an art production that is -in my eyes- wildly interesting, to release it from being caught between international misunderstanding and national censorship, it is necessary to do research on a small, direct scale. We have to look at how art works operate and how they can be analyzed within their political context.

The human body is one of the most visual and noticeable domains in which power is expressed in Iran’s public life. It is a place of expressing individuality and identity, but also a place on which power, both subtle and explicit, is exercised. Interfering with the normal body-power relation in a society, is one thing. But in Iran, art itself is tied to certain rules of modesty: bodies on canvas or in copper have to obey the same rules as the bodies of flesh and blood. Since exhibitions belong to the public sphere, all art shows are checked, which makes it a difficult place to express critique. One of the strategies that young Iranian artists use, in order to make works of art about the human body without being censored, is separating form and content. A distinction between what we can see, and what realms of thought, association and imagination it opens behind our eyes. This is the first of three episodes, based on my 2016 master thesis, in which I wrote about case studies from different Iranian artists, all living and working within the borders of Iran, who use this strategy. This episode is about the work from two young artists, Ghazaleh Hedayat and Mona Aghababaee, who both investigate what it is to have a female body in Iran, in their very own, abstract ways. Doing so, they illustrate the thin line on which acceptable provocation takes place, the place of critical innovation and resilience.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Reimagining the ’70s Tehran Music Scene, One Party at a Time

Disco Tehran, a performance project and party that combines live music and D.J. sets, recalls the music scene of 1970s Tehran.Credit: Devin Yalkin for The New York Times. Courtesy NY Times.

by Sasha von Oldershausen, New York Times

In the stories Arya Ghavamian and Mani Nilchiani’s parents told them, there was dancing. European and American expats mingled with Iranians in the neon glow of Tehran’s clubs, which pulsed with music by the Beatles and Iranian pop stars Hayedeh and Googoosh. Liquor wasn’t contraband then, and the city was a vibrant artistic hub.

Now, Ghavamian and Nilchiani are reimagining the cultural moment that they never experienced firsthand — the Tehran music scene of the 1970s, which came to an abrupt end after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 replaced a Western-allied government with today’s Islamic Republic. A year ago, the pair began organizing Disco Tehran, a performance project and party that combines live music and D.J. sets, in New York. Though the parties often spotlight Iranian musicians like the Farsi funk group Mitra Sumara, they also feature a wide array of world music, electronic music and noise art.

“The reference of Disco Tehran is to a point in time when channels of cultural transactions and exchange were wide and open and flowing,” said Nilchiani, 32, a professor at Parsons who also works at an international design firm. “That’s what we aspire to be.”

In recent months, the parties packed spaces like Home Sweet Home and Le Bain at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan, attracting many beyond the Iranian diaspora. On Friday, the event returns to Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, where Alsarah & the Nubatones, a Sudanese-American retro pop group, and Nilchiani’s own Sufi rock band Tan Haw will perform live, and four D.J.s will spin tunes from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, as well as electronic music and techno.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

US-Based Iranian Artist Taha Heydari Censors His Own Work to Talk About State Control

Taha Heydari, Shooting the Edge, 2017-2019. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy Taha Heydari and Observer. 
by Michael Anthony FarleyObserver

Taha Heydari is having a moment in a big way. With one solo show having opened this week in his hometown of Tehran, another coming up at San Francisco’s Haines Gallery and growing interest from collectors in his adopted East Coast home, the 33-year-old painter is a busy man.

Observer visited Heydari’s studio last month at the School 33 Art Center in Baltimore, where he has been an artist-in-residence since graduating with an M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s (M.I.C.A.) three years ago. A converted 19th century schoolhouse with soaring windows, the bright, cheery setting feels oddly incongruous to Heydari’s often-dark, hyper-contemporary paintings.

One of the smaller, more intimate works bound for “Impact Crater,” Heydari’s solo show at Tehran’s Ab-Anbar gallery, depicts the mummified corpse of Lenin as if viewed through a grainy night-vision camera. It’s an image that manages to be somehow even creepier than its morbid subject matter. Another renders a pixelated explosion from the point-of-view of a first-person-shooter video game. The hand pulling the trigger blurs into the foreground the way a buffering Skype call might, complicating the viewer’s implied relationship to the violence. It recalls the live-streaming footage of conflicts cable news bombarded us with in the days of “Shock-and-Awe” foreign policy. In nearly all of Heydari’s work, references (both subtle and overt) to state control, consumer culture, surveillance and censorship are ambiguously combined and abstracted.

Does Heydari find it weird to have a life and career that straddle two countries with extreme, arguably insane, right-wing governments—governments that have made fear-mongering and hatred of each other an intrinsic part of their respective identities? “Of course!” he laughs. “Growing up in Iran we were surrounded by propaganda about the ‘The Great Satan.’ So I always thought, ‘hmmm…maybe I want to meet this Satan! What’s the devil like?’”

Monday, 22 April 2019

Material Culture art exhibition communicated deep personal experiences to transcend cultural borders

Material Culture was exhibited at the Elga Wimmer PCC, New York City, from April 4 to April 18, 2019.

Material Culture, featured the works of five Iran-born artists who use “nonrepresentational forms” and a range of materials to create a visual language that not only communicates deep personal experiences but also transcends cultural borders.

Maryam Khosrovani. Imprint | Location 3, Brooklyn | 2015 – 2016. Courtesy Global Voices.

by Omid Memarian, The BridgeGlobal Voices

Curated by the award-winning independent curator and cultural producer Roya Khadjavi, the show featured the work of Maryam Khosrovani, Aida Izadpanah, Dana Nehdaran, Maryam Palizgir, and Massy Nasser Ghandi.

All but one of the five received their BA in visual art in Iran, from where they each emigrated at various points in their lives. Four of them now live in the United States, and Massy Nasser Ghandi lives in France.

They each work in the abstract mode, creating art that reacts to and comments on the integration of their culture of origin and that of their adoptive countries. Their works incorporate traditional materials such as clay, porcelain, fabric, iron, paint and wood into new forms and techniques that adapt to their new circumstances.

Through line, color and the use of porcelain, clay, iron, wire, gold and linen canvas, these five artists have produced sculptures, constructions and paintings that, in the words of Artscope national correspondent and Material Culture catalogue essayist Nancy Nesvet, allow “no strict cultural allusions or boundaries” and provide “steps toward understanding… [which is] perhaps the purpose of art, to reveal and to provide an understanding of the culture and mind of the artist, and to draw an empathic response from the viewer.” Nesvet says, “Certainly, the artists in this show are successful at that mission.”

Curator Roya Khadjavi, who is based in New York, has focused on the work of young Iranian artists working in and outside Iran, seeking to support their artistic endeavors and facilitate awareness and cultural dialogue between artistic communities. Since 2008 she has led exhibition committee efforts to show the art of the Middle East for institutions including the Guggenheim Museum and Asia Society, where she sat on the steering committee of the critically acclaimed exhibition Iran Modern (2013).

Iranian artist Masoud Akhavanjam to present two works alongside the Venice Biennale

'Dilemma of Man', 2016, Masoud Akhavanjam. Courtesy the artist and Art Critique.

by Katherine KeenerArt Critique

Alongside the Venice Biennale, the GAA Foundation will present their exhibition ‘Personal Structures: open borders.’ The exhibition will be open to the public, free of charge, from May 11th through November 24th and will boast European and non-European artists. The exhibition will call the Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora, and the Giardini Marinaress home for the duration of the Biennale.

Among the artists who will show their works during ‘Personal Structures’ is Iranian sculptor Masoud Akhavanjam. Known for his elegant works in stainless steel, Akhavanjam will exhibit two large scale sculptures at the Giardini Marinaress. Dilemma of Man and Metamorphosis, made out of Akhavanjam’s go-to material, glean in the light resembling mercury if it could be moulded. Each work is highly symbolic for Akhavanjam and serves a greater purpose: to ask those who witness them to do good.

Both Dilemma of Man and Metamorphosis combine multiple figures to create two unique and coherent sculptures that call on Persian mythology, contemporary socio-political themes, and philosophy. Dilemma of Man, which is about four metres tall, plays off the trope of the battle of good and evil within the confines of today’s world. A feathered wing melds into a bat-like wing evoking good and evil, respectively, recalling the metaphor of having an angle on one shoulder and a devil on the other. For Akhavanjam, Dilemma of Man comments on the powers at be today whose choices can do extreme good or evil. Metamorphosis, though smaller in size, is no less powerful. Bringing together attributes of a bull, elephant, and deer, Akhavanjam drew inspiration from Persian mythical figures of the Achaemenid Empire of Iran. By combining animals who are all variants of strength and power, Akhavanjam expresses sentiments of harmonious coexistence.

Friday, 29 March 2019

'It will rock your house!' Inside the Iranian electronic underground

Ten years ago, electronic music in Iran was suppressed by the government. But now these strange, often punishing sounds are finding their way into the world

‘It feels really good to be part of this family’ ... Rojin Sharafi. Photograph: Igor Ripak. Courtesy the Guardian.

by Alastair Shuttleworth, The Guardian

Ten years ago Bahman Ghobadi’s film No One Knows About Persian Cats followed a young Iranian songwriting duo’s efforts to form a band with other underground musicians in Iran. It presented a country in which music deemed politically or culturally incendiary was prohibited, since artists hoping to perform or distribute their work had to acquire permission from the Iranian ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, or risk arrest.

Western journalists seized upon a narrative of sensitive outlaws holed up in underground studios, but today a new story is emerging: of a visionary music community now able to openly share its strange creations. Increasingly, Iran is becoming recognised as a hub for some of the world’s most vital, forward-thinking experimental music.

Its affable prime mover is Ata Ebtekar, a long-celebrated figure in electronic music under his alias Sote, meaning “sound” in Farsi. His last album, 2017’s Sacred Horror in Design, received widespread acclaim for its haunting, challenging fusion of electronics with Iranian classical music; this year he will release a new electroacoustic album entitled Parallel Persia, led by the breathtaking single Artificial Neutrality.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

'No to war': Middle East musicians collaborate on a 'peace album'

Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian brings together artists from the region to promote 'resilience, hope and empathy'.

In Iran, Rajabian is barred from releasing any music or leaving the country over security-related charges. Famous photographer Reza Deghati's photo was used for the cover of the album. Courtesy Al Jazeera.

Nearly 100 musicians from across the Middle East have collaborated for an album put together by Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian to promote peace in the embattled region.

The album, titled "Middle Eastern", consists of songs played by artists from Iran, Turkey, Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Egypt and Bahrain along with some musicians from Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

"We have tried to use local instruments in the album because our priority was to highlight the native tunes of the Middle East," Rajabian, 29, told Al Jazeera.

"For my research on Middle East music, I had been in touch with musicians from all over the region. I discussed the idea of an album with many of them and they showed a lot of interest."

Some musicians who participated in the project came from places ravaged by years of wars and conflict, mainly Palestine, Yemen and Syria.

Most songs in the album, released on Friday by the Sony Music company, have been written by the artists themselves and produced by Rajabian.

Rajabian said one of the tracks was recorded while the air attacks were on. He refused to speak further about the details of the track, the artist involved or the location where it was recorded.

A musician, he added, took part in the project while grappling with "extreme poverty" while another tune was "recorded on a boat by a fleeing refugee".

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Artist accuses Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art of selling off works at a premium

Rokni Haerizadeh sold his work to the museum at a reduced rate before it was auctioned without his permission

Haerizadeh’s N Vel Ab 2 (2002-03) was auctioned in Tehran on 12 January and sold for 3.6m rials ($86,680) Tehran Auction. Courtesy of the artist and The Art Newspaper.

by Gareth HarrisThe Art Newspaper

A growing number of artists claim that their works in the collection of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA) have gone “missing” and may have ended up on the market without their knowledge. Rokni Haerizadeh, who was born in Iran and is now part of an artist collective in Dubai, has accused TMoCA of buying one of his paintings at a reduced rate and then selling it at a premium. Haerizadeh says his canvas, N Vel Ab 2 (2002-03) was consigned to Tehran Auction, selling on 12 January for 3.6 million rials ($86,680), a sum significantly over the price at which it was acquired.

Meanwhile, the Tehran-based artist Barbad Golshiri fears that his work in the TMoCA collection, Bahram Doesn’t see a Right Wing (2003), may have also been disposed of. “TMoCA confirmed that my work is indeed in the collection, yet when I ask them to say this in writing, they turn tail. I no longer have any motivation to find my work. That piece was about my own death. I consider it dead. It is as if it never existed,” he says.

The big picture: a surreal scene in the Iranian desert

Gohar Dashti’s take on the aftermath of the Iran‑Iraq war captures her nation’s ongoing sense of trauma

Untitled, from Gohar Dashti’s series Stateless, 2014-15. Photograph: © Gohar Dashti, courtesy the artist and the Guardian.

by Tim AdamsThe Guardian

The photographer Gohar Dashti was born in 1980 in Ahvaz, a city in south-west Iran, near the border with Iraq. For the first 10 years of her life, her home was a battlefield in the brutal war between the neighbouring states. She spent many childhood nights in an air-raid shelter and she looked on as the place that was all she knew was reduced to rubble. Dashti’s work has always focused on the legacy of conflict, a fallout that continues around Ahvaz both physically – the rivers are poisoned, the wheat fields barren – and psychologically.

From her earliest work a decade ago, Dashti has approached this post-conflict history not as a documentary photographer, but as a conceptual artist. She grew sick, she has said, of foreign photojournalism – women in chadors brandishing machine guns. Instead, she wanted to use her pictures to locate the more intractable insecurity that she recognised all around her. She started staging pictures that juxtaposed the expectations of normal life events – celebrations of weddings or birthdays – with the ever-present detritus of war.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

5 Photographers Show What It’s Like to Be a Young Iranian Today

Labkhand Olfatmanesh and Gazelle Samizay, Bepar, 2018. Courtesy of the artists and Artsy.
by Jacqui Palumbo, Artsy

What is like to grow up as an Iranian today? The third edition of Focus Iran, a biennial exhibition presented by the Iranian arts-and-culture nonprofit Farhang Foundation, hopes to provide an answer through photography and video that explore contemporary Iranian youth culture.

The juried show—selected by Iranian photographers, filmmakers, and curators such as Babak Tafreshi, who shoots for the likes of National Geographic, and documentarian Maryam Zandi—features works by more than 40 image-makers and runs through May 12th at Los Angeles’s Craft & Folk Art Museum.

Here, six of the exhibiting photographers (two of whom work as pairs) share the backstories of their works.

Iranian artists revisit their relationship to a contested past

London's Mosaic Rooms showcases the work of Iran’s current generation of artists and writers

Visitors watch The Fabulous Life and Thought of Ahmad Fardid (2015), a film by Hamed Yousefi with Ali Miresepassi, at the Mosaic Rooms. Photo by Andy Stagg. Courtesy Mosaic Rooms and Middle East Eye.

by Sahar EsfandiariMiddle East Eye

This month marks 40 years since the Iranian revolution, an anniversary which has prompted many to turn their attention to Iran and discuss historical events and current realities.

Spanning over two floors of London gallery The Mosaic Rooms, When Legacies Become Debts is a group exhibition of contemporary Iranian artists revisiting their relationships to a recent, tumultuous past.

“The exhibition is about the personal bonds between two generations of artists and writers, and coming to terms with the desirable, but also confusing and problematic legacies of a generation who were involved in the Iranian revolution in 1979,” says Iran-based curator Azar Mahmoudian, who is an independent arts educator in Tehran.

The older generation of artists were “situated in a network of other struggles happening at the time, from independence movements to struggles against colonialism, gender inequalities and racism," she adds.

"It is an attempt to understand how we ended up in the current state of culture in the country, while refraining from producing an isolated narrative, and go beyond the 'Iranian–ness' of this situation."

Monday, 25 February 2019

Iranian artist and activist Siah Armajani builds bridges in New York

The artist will recreate one of his best-known works in Brooklyn Bridge Park to coincide with his retrospective at the Met Breuer

Siah Armajani, Bridge Over Tree (1970/2019) installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Timothy Schenck; courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY and The Art Newspaper.

The Iranian-born, US-based artist Siah Armajani’s first major retrospective in his adopted county includes paintings, collages, sculptures and maquettes made from the mid-1950s until today. Armajani has “what seems like such a diverse practice at first glance”, says the curator Clare Davies, who has organised the Met Breuer’s leg of the exhibition. “But there is this thread that runs through a lot of it: he’s really interested in how language can transform people, and the different ways that that gets implemented in the physical world,” Davies says.

Armajani arrived in the US in 1960 to go to university in Minnesota. He says he left Iran as he “was in danger of being arrested” for his activism. The collages that Armajani made in the 1950s as a young political activist borrow language from poems, school texts and even spells he procured from a scribe he met outside a post office.

His sculpture Dictionary for Building: The Garden Gate (1982-83), made from wood and books, looks at the relationship between “speech that’s supposed to transform its listeners” and architecture, Davies says. The work combines the form of a minbar (a pulpit in a mosque) with “elements of vernacular American architecture and references to Russian Constructivism”. There will also be a section dedicated to his work made for public spaces and will include a key piece, Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3 (1988).

Friday, 22 February 2019

In Tehran: A Conversation with Iranian Gallerists

This conversation took place in Tehran on June 18 and June 30, 2017. The participants (in Persian alphabetical order) were Rozita Sharafjahan (Azad Art Gallery), Anahita Ghabaian (Silk Road Gallery), Maryam Majd (Assar Art Gallery), Masoumeh Mozaffari (President of the Society of Iranian Painters), Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam, and Keivan Moussavi-Aghdam. The questions, asked by Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam, were formulated by Talinn Grigor (University of California, Davis, and a member of the Art Journal Editorial Board) in conversation with Art Journal‘s editor-in-chief, Rebecca M. Brown.

Rozita Sharafjahan, Maryam Majd, Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam, Masoumeh Mozaffari, and Anahita Ghabaian in conversation, Tehran, June 2017 (photograph by Keivan Moussavi-Aghdam). Courtesy Art Journal.

Interview by Rebecca M. Brown, Art Journal

The Market, the Masterpiece, and Introducing New Artists

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam: There is no doubt that your role in the realm of contemporary Iranian art has been significant over the past few decades. What’s more, since the era preceding the [Iranian] Revolution, women have had an active role in the domain of gallery ownership. The international art market has changed the direction of Iranian art within the past twenty years. How have artists, gallerists, and collectors taken steps to accommodate or resist the forces of the market? More specifically, what stance have you adopted toward the market? Have you moved in the same direction, or have you mounted resistance? What were your strategies?

Maryam Majd: I have been practicing this profession for eleven years. The issue of market does not go back twenty years; it goes back to 2006—when Christie’s started introducing and selling Iranian works in Dubai; at that moment Iranian art began to receive attention. In addition to modern art, Christie’s exhibits contemporary art and works of younger artists. There is a vast difference between the present and 2006; similarly, 2006 and 2000 are vastly different from one another. As for accommodating or mounting resistance to the market, several concerns come to mind: becoming international, being able to introduce your artists to the world, and making artists who are at different levels visible.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

How Iran’s Greatest Director Makes Art of Moral Ambiguity

Asghar Farhadi’s films fill theaters in a country where taking sides can be dangerous. They’ve also captivated Hollywood.

Farhadi in Tehran, near the mountains north of the city. Credit: Newsha Tavakolian/Magnum for The New York Times. Courtesy NY Times.
By Giles Harvey, New York Times

Asghar Farhadi, the most successful director in the history of Iranian cinema, may have little interest in global politics, but global politics are interested in him. On Jan. 27, 2017, less than a week after “The Salesman,” Farhadi’s seventh feature film, was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign-language movie, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, more commonly known as the Muslim ban. Under its terms, citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, Iran among them, were barred from entering the United States for 90 days — apparently the time it would take the new president to figure out “what the hell is going on.” For Farhadi, a connoisseur of human particularity whose nuanced, open-ended films about the cultural fault lines within Iran have been embraced by audiences around the world, Trump’s order was an offense both moral and intellectual. In a statement released two days later, he announced his decision to boycott the Oscars and also alluded to the history of “reciprocal humiliation” that lay behind present-day American-Iranian hostilities. Given the circumstances (the collective punishment of an entire religious group), that “reciprocal” showed extraordinary equanimity — not that anyone who had seen the film for which Farhadi was nominated, a painstaking psychological inquest into the rival claims of reciprocally humiliated parties, would have been surprised.

Overlooked No More

Forough Farrokhzad, Iranian Poet Who Broke Barriers of Sex and Society

An author unafraid to defy midcentury attitudes about her gender. “What is important is humanity,” she said, “not being a man or a woman.”
Forough Farrokhzad near Tehran circa 1966. She was one of Iran’s pre-eminent mid-20th-century writers, both reviled and revered for her poems. Credit: Ebrahim Golestan. Courtesy NY Times.

By Amir-Hussein Radjy, New York Times

When a radio interviewer suggested to the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad that her verses could be characterized as “feminine,” she rejected the notion.

“What is important is humanity, not being a man or a woman,” she said. “If a poem can get to that point, it is no longer connected with its creator but with a world of poetry.”

Farrokhzad was one of Iran’s pre-eminent mid-20th-century writers, both reviled and revered for her poems, which often dealt with female desire. Throughout her life she struggled with how her gender affected the reception of her work in a culture where women were often confined to traditional roles, but where there are few higher callings than the life of a poet.

In the afterword to “Captive” (1955), her first poetry collection, Farrokhzad wrote, “Perhaps because no woman before me took steps toward breaking the shackles binding women’s hands and feet, and because I am the first to do so, they have made such a controversy out of me.”

Her death in 1967 at 32, in a car crash, was regarded as a national tragedy, making  the front pages of Tehran’s newspapers.

Iran’s leading literary journal, Sokhan, wrote after her funeral, “Forough is perhaps the first female writer in Persian literature to express the emotions and romantic feelings of the feminine gender in her verse with distinctive frankness and elegance, for which reason she has inaugurated a new chapter in Persian poetry.”

Monday, 3 December 2018

Cameras under hijabs: capturing the art of the Qashqai people

Welington woman Anna Williams met Sir David Attenborough while filming the documentary. Courtesy Stuff
by Phil Quin, Stuff

One faded piece, one frayed edge, one painstaking stitch at a time, Wellingtonian Anna Williams has spent the past thirty years repairing Persian rugs. Solitary work, maybe, but never lonely. 

"One of the first rugs I worked on - I remember it was midnight - I felt I wasn't alone.  I felt these amazing women out of whose imagination and traditions this carpet came, as well as others who have repaired them along the way, even the traders who sold them". 

When she comes across traces of an earlier repair, it thrills her: "Oh look, there's someone else in this story".

The Kiwi, The Knight and the Qashqai, a new documentary from Wellington filmmaker Anna Cottrell, follows Williams on her seventh journey to Iran where she renews old friendships among the nomadic Qashqai people, and stocks up on rare yarns and dyes.

Along the way, they meet with renowned British documentarian David Attenborough who first brought focus to the cultural traditions of the Qashqai in a 1975 documentary.

"Our Iranian friends drove us from Tehran to the Caspian Sea and back down to Shiraz in the Fars province, the summer home of the Qashqai nomads. We filmed when and where we could," Cottrell said.

Monday, 26 November 2018

An anti-feminist manifesto

Jafar Panahiʹs "Three Faces"

In May 2018, Jafar Panahiʹs film "Three Faces" was screened at the Cannes International Film Festival and won the prize for the best screenplay. It is the Iranian film directorʹs fourth film since the Mullah regime sentenced him to a 20-year ban on travel and work in 2010.
No monument to women: "Three Faces" suffers from one major shortcoming: the lack of a considered and deeply egalitarian view of the relationship between man and woman – even in the film business. Courtesy
by Fahimeh

In "Three Faces" Panahi takes to the road again, as he did in "Taxi" (Golden Bear – Berlinale 2015). This time he is on a quest to reveal the secret of a mobile video he has received via social media. The video was actually addressed to the popular film and TV actress Behnaz Jafari: a desperate girl named Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezaie) from the mountainous region in north-west Iran accuses Jafari of failing to help her become an actress despite numerous requests.

The girl claims that she could have convinced her parents to allow her to attend acting school in Tehran. But now her parents have forced her into marriage and she has abandoned her passion for the theatre. As a result she sees no other way out but to kill herself. The video ends with the desperate young woman hanging herself.

Real or fake? In search of a clear answer, Panahi and Jafari set off for the mountains of Azerbaijan. The locations are also the birthplaces of the director's parents and grandparents. The protagonists also play themselves: Marziyeh Rezaie, Behnaz Jafari and Shahrzad. You never get to see Shahrzad's face, however. Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, she played dancers or prostitutes in the films of well-known directors such as Massud Kymiai. Since public dancing and singing are forbidden for women under today's mullah regime, they are only shown as shadows behind a curtain so as not to reveal their identity.

From Manus Island to sanctions on Iran

The art and opinions of Hoda Afshar

A still from Remain by Hoda Afshar, 2018. Photograph: Hoda Afshar. Courtesy the artist and the Guardian.

At first glance the video looks like a tourism promo. There is lush tropical jungle. Fat, glistening fish. White sands. Azure water. Remain, by Iranian-Australian artist Hoda Afshar, was not filmed in paradise, however, but in a prison: Manus Island.

“I wanted to [move beyond] images of a refugee behind bars,” says Afshar. “I wanted the subject to decide how to share the story: to give them autonomy and agency.”

Melbourne-based Afshar is one of eight young Australian artists whose work is now showing at the annual Primavera exhibition at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The 35-year-old’s often confronting photography asks us to rethink how we look at marginalised people and those on the outside.

In Behold, Afshar entered an Iranian bathhouse to shoot moody, achingly beautiful images of gay men. In Under Western Eyes, women in chadors are given the Andy Warhol treatment: posing against bright pops of colour, they smoke cigarettes, pout their lips and clutch lapdogs. In one photograph, we don’t see a face at all: just a long thick Barbie-blonde plait emerging out of the dark folds of fabric. In October, her portrait of Iranian journalist and activist Behrouz Boochani won the Bowness Photography Prize.

Afshar insists that “images share a lot of power in controlling the minds of society – for me, it’s recognising that power.”

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The World Was Catching on to Iran’s Contemporary Art. Then Sanctions Returned

In Tehran, Hormoz Hematian’s gallery was thriving. Domestic and international collectors were buying works by his local artists. When Donald Trump tore up the Iran deal, those prospects began to dim.

Peybak’s Untitled, from the Abrakan Series, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist, Dastan's Basement and Bloomberg.
by James Tarmy, Bloomberg

In theory, the devaluation of the Iranian rial this year—to date, the currency has lost about 70 percent of its value against the dollar—should have been good for Hormoz Hematian.

The founder of Tehran’s contemporary art gallery Dastan’s Basement, Hematian spends a significant portion of his time traveling the world to show his artists’ paintings, sculpture, and installations to an international audience; he’s been to six different fairs or exhibitions in 2018 alone. So once the rial plummeted to a third of what it was just months before after Donald Trump resurrected oil sanctions on Iran, by maintaining art prices in foreign countries (and currencies) Hematian’s gallery should have been able to triple its profits.

But the opposite is true. Despite Hematian’s aggressive international sales efforts, more than 80 percent of his clientele is still at home. “The majority of our market is definitely inside Iran, it’s not even a question,” he says. “We’d like it to be more than just inside the country, but it really is a kind of wait-and-see situation.” As a consequence, Hamatian is squeezed on both ends: The costs of traveling and selling abroad have tripled, while the discretionary spending power of his collectors at home has plummeted.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A Conversation with Nicky Nodjoumi on the Power and Politics of his Art

Nicky Nodjoumi working at his studio in Brooklyn New York. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nicky Nodjoumi and Global Voices.
by Omid Memarian, The BridgeGlobal Voices

From the Homa Gallery in Tehran to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Nicky Nodjoumi’s art has been exhibited around the world. Having lived and worked in his birth country of Iran before and during the country’s 1979 revolution, Nodjoumi, now a Brooklyn resident, developed a keen interest in the relationship between art and politics. He secretly nurtured that interest as an art student in the 1970s at City College in New York until a new generation of artists “changed New York’s art scene and ended the domination of the elite.” From that point on, the gallery owners who had shunned his work began opening their doors to him.

Viewed as a whole, Nodjoumi’s art is a powerful, interpretive, multifaceted, sometimes satirical, exploration of issues related to power and politics. Throughout the decades, Nodjoumi’s work has remained bold and curious as opposed to declarative.

Omid Memarian (OM): The politics of today figure strongly in your work. What’s your thought process and how do you portray political issues without focusing on a specific incident or personality?

Nicky Nodjoumi’s (NN): I start with a photo from a newspaper or magazine. There was a time when artists would put a model in front of them and draw a subject, but times have changed. For example, if I want to paint Mr. Trump’s picture, I can’t use him as a model but there are a lot of photos of him that I can use to match my chosen topic. I often try to change the form or the body so that it only bears a superficial resemblance to reality. Not everyone will recognize who that person is because I want everyone in the world to make a connection when they see it.

OM: For the past 10 years, you have focused on the issue of power, especially in your most recent collection, “Field Work and Two Faces.” How does it shape your work?

NN: Power is based on relationships between people. We have all kinds of power; the state is the primary center of power and then there is the family. Power is not hidden but many might not pay attention to it. Choosing power as one of the main topics of my work is rooted in the desire to drag it down to the ground and make fun of it. It’s important to treat it lightly rather than seriously. In every work, power is represented from a different angle, but ultimately, when you look at them as a whole, you see the humor.

Artist on escaping the Calais Jungle and having his art destroyed by police

Majid Adin is sharing his story of the refugee crisis in a new House of Illustration exhibition
Still from Majid Adin's video for Elton John's Rocket Man (Majid Adin/Stephen McNally). Courtesy ES.
by Susannah ButterES.

It was dark, cramped and nobody could hear him even if he shouted. Iranian artist Majid Adin, 39, is describing how he made it out of the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp and into the UK, locked in a fridge on the back of a van.

“There were three other people in the fridge with me so I couldn’t even raise my arm,” he says. “And we couldn’t see anything in the darkness. I was thinking I will die, and in a painful way. But it wasn’t the first time; I’d tried to leave the Jungle at least 50 times before and been caught. The smugglers often lock you in a fridge.”

This time he was in there for 12 hours. “We had no idea where we were. I only knew that we had crossed the border because the man in the fridge with me had a phone, a bad Nokia, and the time changed from 11.30am to 10.30am, so we were in a different country.”

This was in 2016. Since then Adin has been granted British citizenship and is settled in a one-bedroom flat in Finchley. He has even started working as an artist again, something he stopped when he had to leave Iran. His work is on display at House of Illustration’s latest exhibition, Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis.

Adin is exhibiting an animation he did for Elton John’s Rocket Man, drawing on his own journey to the UK. His mother, in Iran, didn’t know who Elton was. “She was more impressed that a picture I did of her in the Jungle made it into a book,” he says.

Adin grew up in Mashad, a conservative city in north-east Iran. His family are Shi’ite Muslims; his father was a shoemaker, his mother a housewife and he has two brothers and three sisters. “I always liked the cinema — silent movies, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and European cinema, Fellini — and I liked fine art, so I studied animation.” He did an MA in art in Tehran. “There was a conservative atmosphere, lots of censorship of the art books — you wondered if the covered up bits of pictures were part of the art. It’s so exciting now being in a country with freedom of expression.”

Two Takes on Geometric Themes

Detail of textile work by Bita Ghezelavagh, 2018. Courtesy Sotheby’s.
by Roxane ZandSotheby’s

My two visits to new shows by Middle Eastern artists in London could not have been more different, yet both are rooted in similar sensibilities and come from the ordered vocabulary of geometric constructs.

Iranian artist Bita Ghezelayegh’s show at Leighton House Museum with its ornate rooms and extravagant Arab Hall topped by the golden dome, surrounded by intricate mosaics and priceless Islamic tiles, projects a distinct Middle Eastern, Islamic feel. She addresses the grand themes of courtship, kingship and the arts of war, while at the same time celebrating the small stories that weave into our current lives.

With masterful and inventive use of materials such as velvet, silk, felt, and carpet fragments (which she collects) she creates a panoply of charming tableaux, where metal pen nibs adorn a black felt cloak, and recycled scrubbing bags with overlaying silk embroidery complete a handmade patchwork. Somewhere between the arts of the maker and a conceptual artist, Bita defies any simple category, using her highly individualistic inspiration to add a distinctively modern layer, elevating humble items such as discarded rugs to upcycle into a statement about our age of casual disposal. Known for her collection of textiles as modern art, Bita offers a remarkable and fresh approach to an artistic practice that is highly regional yet immediately universal.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Acclaimed Iranian actor opens up on the challenges and rewards of taking a stand

Fatemeh Motamed-Arya has used her popularity as an artist to tackle the difficult and complex issues facing her country.

Nabat (2014). Courtesy of Biennale di Venezia
by Natarsha Kallios, SBS News

Fatemeh Motamed-Arya is in Australia as a special guest of the Iranian Film Festival Australia (IFFA).

She is a well-respected political activist and is recognised for her commitment to women’s rights, charity fundraising and humanitarian projects. Motamed-Arya uses her platform to speak of these types of issues, and in turn has a large following. As an activist and popular actor, Motamed-Arya has faced challenges, including bans across Iranian screens on several of her films.

"At the beginning, they have the problem with the subject and then they have problem with me," Motamed-Arya told SBS News. "I had to explain nothing will happen if they show my movies."

She is also an advocate for peace in a region of turmoil.

"I'm a social activist also, I think that's the reason because small things that I'm talking about for the people, it's big and huge happening - so they can follow me easily," Motamed-Arya said. "They're afraid of something happening, but I'm not a political person, I am an artist. "I think artist is a high level of the quality of the country and socialist activists, the politics are down and we are at the top - it's different."

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Behjat Sadr: Iran's 'pioneer of visual arts' gets first exhibition in London

A retrospective on the life and works of the Iranian artist shows a woman ahead of her time

Behjat Sadr, Untitled, Circa 1975, oil on canvas, 80 X 128 cm, private collection. Courtesy Sotheby’s Museum Network.

When Iranian artist Behjat Sadr first debuted her abstract paintings inspired by Venetian blinds in 1967 Tehran, it was radical work for the time.

The kinetic works, flanked by black blinds covered with mirror tape on one side and individually superimposed at right angles to the canvas, created a unique visual experience. Shape-shifting with the viewer’s movement, they offer glimmering reflected colours that quickly fade to black.

But her body of work was dismissed at the time by prominent Iranian critic Karim Emami, as mere “gadgetry” in the realm of “housewife art,” says art historian Morad Montazami, who has curated a new Sadr retrospective, Behjat Sadr: Dusted Waters, which runs through 8 December at Kensington's Mosaic Rooms.

The exhibition offers an intimate look at the life and work of Sadr, a woman who was ahead of her time in many ways.

Montazami, who was 28 years old at the time of Sadr’s death in 2009, is a dedicated chronicler of her work. In 2016, he produced a Sadr retrospective at the Ab-Anbar and Aria galleries in Tehran.

Much of the biographic detail comes from Montazami’s research for his 2014 monograph, Traces. It hails the abstract painter as a “pioneer of the visual arts in Iran” and one of the first women artists and professors to “emerge on the international biennale scene in the early 1960s.”

Montazami has named this first UK solo exhibition of Sadr’s work, Dusted Waters, after a line from one of her poems that evokes the artist’s nature-inspired “cosmologies,” specifically earth and water. The exhibition juxtaposes the artist’s writings and personal photographs gleaned from her archive with her paintings.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Fragments From a War-Torn Childhood

The Iran-Iraq war that made me who I am ended thirty years ago. Keeping quiet will not make it go away. I don’t believe in talking through it, either. Between silence and speech lies the act of writing. This is where I seek my remedy.

Drawings that the author made at the age of six or seven, in wartime, which were recently retrieved by his sister from his mother's archive of masterpieces created by her children. Courtesy Guernica.
by Amir Ahmadi ArianGuernica

I spent the first eight years of my life in a war zone. Eight years of deafening noise: the staccato scream of anti-aircrafts, the whiz of military jets, the rattle of Kalashnikovs, the successive booming of landing mortars. Eight years of blinding lights: the dark orange cloud of fire after explosion rolling over and onto itself, the thin red thread of bullets shooting out of gun barrels, burning cigarettes shining in the streets like lighthouses in nights of total blackout.

In September 1980, several days short of my first birthday, the Iran-Iraq war began. At the time my parents lived in Ahvaz, Iran, seventy miles east of the frontline. Ahvaz is an expansive, flat urban area home to more than one million people and known for the Karun River, fertile palms, and flames that leap out of burning oil wells. A few months into the war it became clear that Saddam was seeking to annex the state of Khuzestan and nothing less, and that all the Western superpowers supported him. The people of Ahvaz began to leave. Neighbors and friends crammed their most precious belongings into cars and hit the road, transforming overnight from well-off southern oil families to internal refugees.

Friday, 28 September 2018

How a Political Sociologist Fell into Photojournalism After a 1980 Trip to Iran

Following her initial trip, Randy Goodman returned to Iran multiple times, shifting her focus to the many women she encountered.

Randy H. Goodman, “Women Only” (2015), color photograph on archival, enhanced matte paper with pigment inks (© Randy H. Goodman). Courtesy Hyperallergic.

by Sarah Rose SharpHyperallergic

Political sociologist Randy Goodman made her first trip to Iran in 1980. She was part of a delegation of Americans who traveled to Iran to meet with the Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line, who ultimately occupied the US Embassy in Tehran for 444 days, holding 52 Americans hostage during that time, in a gesture of support for the Iranian Revolution. Falling somewhat inadvertently into the role of photographer on the trip, Goodman found photojournalism to be an ideal merging of her interests in politics and documentary work. Following her initial trip, Goodman returned to Iran multiple times in the ’80s, and on these visits, as well as on a recent trip in 2015 — following a three-decade hiatus from international work — her focus shifted to the women she encountered in Iran. In June, the Bronx Museum of the Arts mounted Iran: Women Only, a photo exhibition that juxtaposes Goodman’s work from almost 40 years ago with photos from today. Goodman graced Hyperallergic with an email interview on the subject of her time in Iran and her own shift in perception of herself as an artist.

*   *   *

Sarah Rose Sharp: I see you referred to variously as an artist and a photojournalist, and I wonder if you can unpack the distinction between making art and making journalistic work. How do you identify, at this point?

Randy Goodman: Thank you for asking this question, as I have most recently contemplated whether I, as a photojournalist, am also an artist. For nearly four decades, because of the journalistic nature of my work, I have exclusively referred to myself as a photojournalist — someone who takes, edits, and publishes photographs to tell news stories.

An Elegy for the Death of Hamun

Q&A: Climate change in Iran by fast-emerging photographer Hashem Shakeri

The Adimi, Dehno (new village), Sistan. Here is part of the Helmand water, which one entered the city and was used by the people, but which is now dried up. The fishermen’s boats are abandoned here and there in the dried land of the rivers and Hamun lagoon. From the series An Elegy for the Death of Hamun © Hashem Shakeri, courtesy BJP .

by Diane Smyth, British Journal of Photography

Once famed for its agriculture, Sistan has suffered from drought, famine, and depopulation for years; BJP catches up with young Iranian photographer Hashem Shakeri on his images of the crisis, and on the Iranian photography scene

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1988, Hashem Shakeri studied architecture in TAFE (New South Wales Technical and Further Education Commission of Australia), and started his professional photography career in 2010. In 2015 he was Commended in the Ian Parry Scholarship, and in 2017 his images were included in the Rencontres d’Arles exhibition Iran, Year 38, alongside work by photographers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Newsha Tavakolian, in a show curated by Newsha Tavakolian and Anahita Ghabaeian.

An Elegy for the Death of Hamun, Shakeri’s ongoing series on climate change in Sistan and Balouchestan looks at the effect of drought in the Iranian province, which is located in the southeast of the country, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been suffering from drought for the last 18 years, which has created severe famine in a region once famed for its agriculture and forests. “Nowadays, the Sistan region has faced astonishing climate change, which has turned this wide area into an infertile desert empty of people,” writes Shakeri. “Drought, unemployment, and hopelessness for the future of this land have made 25 percent of the population in Sistan migrate in recent years.”

Thursday, 2 August 2018

From state censorship to western stereotypes

An interview with Iranian artist Maryam Palizgir
Earth-vessels, a piece from the new Folded Mystery collection. Image provided by Palizgir. Courtesy Global Voices.

Maryam Palizgir is an Iranian-born artist and designer who currently lives and works in the U.S. Her work is interdisciplinary in nature, combining two and three dimensional drawing, sculptural painting and installations focusing on the interaction of geometric abstract forms, color, reflective objects and the layering of grid-like materials.

Palizgir, who currently teaches art at the Ernest Welch school of Art at Georgia State University, has exhibited in Iran, several European countries, the U.S. and Russia, and has been the recipient of numerous international and Iranian awards.

Her current work, Folded Mystery, explores how knowledge is exchanged, how perception widens perspective, and how observation deepens the understanding of reality. “I seek works of art that activate once the viewer is involved,” says Palizgir. “Folded Mystery is about challenging viewers’ perceptions.”

In this interview Palizgir talks about her work, her experience as an Iranian artist, and the constraints this has presented due to both state censorship of artistic expression in Iran and Western stereotypes of Iranians in the U.S.

Excerpts from the interview follows:

Omid Memarian (OM): How was your experience of attending art school in the United States different from Iran?

Maryam Palizgir (MP): The graduate program here in the U.S. is designed for artists who want to incorporate media into their artistic practice and want to expand into areas such as performance, installation, interactive and relational art forms. In my MFA studies, my professors encouraged me to find my own style through three years of course work, art history seminars, interdisciplinary seminars and studio practice. The curriculum for the MFA program in the US is based on developing critical thinking, studio practice and critiques, which are essential for a contemporary artist to develop their fine art vocabulary.