Speak Farsi Greek: Sketching Through the Walls
December 20, 2010- February 10, 2011
Derivative Event: Contemporary Art in Iran and the West
December 22, 2010 @ R53
Discussion of Konstantinos+Amir
K: Let s talk about contemporary art in Iran….
I met Rose Issa in Instabul. And then read the art critic’s piece…
She has been active for thirty years and has a clear notion of how contemporary art developed in Iran in the last thirty years. Would you be able to create a presentation, naming seminal figures from 1960s until today?
A: There are different generations. For the generation who grew and established before Islamic revolution, who are today 60+, there are some famous figures : Parviz Tanavoli, Behrooz Moslemian, … if you ask anyone about that generation they will tell you somehow the same thing.
It is more complicated for newer generations—If you want me to name some figures I have to ask you for what aspects? What kind of figures you want to recognize? The famous ones, the most-selling ones, the more artist ones?
There are some artists that work for the western eye, they passionately want to be seen by western eyes, the western collectors. they know that they use tricks and do what the western eye wants to see, not what they want to present themselves. They are looking for the ways to be sold, they have found out what they have to do to be bought by a western collector>
K: For example?
A:- Shirin Neshat has done great things with Chaddors. The Western eye is very curious. Chaddor is a very strict point in this relationship. So, most of the times, what you do about chador will be interesting for the western eye, and it is indifferent to the content or ideas of your artwork. Chador is a key point for western eye. And This is a trick in this sense. Now Iranian artists know everything about interests of this eye, and those who want to be famous and be sold, produce artworks according to these criteria.
K: The art critic whose presentation we attended before referred to the “Kallithea school”…. Do you have similar schools in Texhran?
A: If you want to know about educational private institutions, I have to say that situation is not desirable at all. there are a few, four or five institutions, with 4 or 5 professors who give their students some informations about contemporary art, or things like that. it is not a movement, though Most of these institutions have a gallery in relation.
and it is not a complicated thing, not as influential as it might seem.
K: What are the names of these institutions?
A: “Mahe Mehr” is an example.
K: What are the current trends in contemporary art in Iran? What else, other than what is going on in this exhibition, is worth of note?
A: – Something should be said about the context. In the history of Iran we have two critical points. First, is Revolution. Second is the day when Khatami became president of Iran. Both points have direct influence on Iranian art. After first event, you can see two levels: the obvious one is what you see in streets, in the few galleries which were open those days- governmental art with restricted areas- paintings about Iran-Iraq war, propaganda for Islam, Soviet Style painting and Graphics. On the other hand you could see underground art from independent artist who worked in their houses/galleries and showed their works there. After the second event, which was about twenty years after revolution, Khatami became president and then you could see explosion of art in Iranian Society. Contemporary art became active. Khatami invited non governmental artists to work in museums. Many galleries opened in Tehran. mediums became various, for example you could see installation art, multimedia- things that before Khatami one couldn’t find any trace of them.
K: These were means of expressions seen in the west and adopted?
A:. Yes, but the adoption was an event in itself. Originality was not the main point, variety and new experience was artistic priority of that period. There was a wide range of artistic events.
After this Artistic explosion, western eye paid attention to Iranian art. Suddenly, critics, collectors paid attention to Iran and thought they would find new material in the middle of an important geopolitical situation in world.
K: After producing the show in the Speak Greek Farsi program, the solo show of Iranian émigré Navab, we asked “what is going on Texhan” and decided to produce a balanching show? For us the expectation was to see governmental type of art. After seeing the work though, we realize the artists had to learn the skills before- they did not wait for Khatami to come to power…
A:. Khatami did not make anything himself, he produced possibilities for artists to come out of underground. He prepared the context. He produced possibilities for western eye to see this variety.
The new era of Iranian art has some undeniable debts to Khatami reforms.
K: This trend of government-underground suggests politics-art are quite close. Can you comment if this also holds true in the western world??
A:- You cannot produce art without paying attention to locality. There are many theories about this- We d have to talk about the origin of the word aesthetics- it means what your senses can feel, can understand. There is an obvious difference between reason and sense. Aesthetics prefers sensual understanding. If we accept this interpretation of original meaning of word, we see that art as the most important phenomenon interconnected to aesthetics has to do with senses, not just mind. So, we have to consider role of SENSE and understanding through art.
K: So, art and politics is all about aesthetics…
A:- with that definition, I wanted to claim that Every kind of art is already political whether the artist wants it or not, because politics is about distribution of senses, and art refuses this established distribution.
KT- What do you think of Art + money, the market for art, the stock exchange for art? There is a way to put a price on all art. There are books written about the mechanism of producing art, e g. Auction houses, collectors. So you have to use rules and tricks to be accepted in this? Do you have some pressure to prove yourself? Now, we ll sell Iran, then Timbuktu or India, then Vietnam. Do the Iranians want to be part of this? I
A- Yes they want to be part of it. It is a possibility anyway. It has some good aspects and bad ones. In this kind of market, artists will be the slaves of the buyers+ collectors, Rich people, middle men- no difference. The artist in this kind of market censors himself before he starts to produce anything “I have to spend time and pay money for material to produce art so I must sell artwork to compensate basic costs. So, what can I do?” S/he searches contemporary market, taste of collectors, ways to sell the work. so there are outsiders who actually decide, guys outside the realm of the artistic action. That is a kind of censor. It is not complicated. you want to do something, but then many different causes put you in an obligatory situation, and now at the end of the day, you have done something that you didn’t not want to do, something for a hidden boss, an invisible commander. But let’s talk about good aspects: exchange of experiences, ideas, possibility for artists to travel, to see, to experience new things.
K- In architecture, there is some conception that good artist has to have “paideia’, a broader educational backdrop, a foundation of culture that does not come only from learning the technique, e.g. Photoshop or how to mix colors but the ability to understand political economy, other fields. Is this an important source of quality art?
A:- Of course! There are two kinds of artists, a famous platonic categorization: the first kind represents reality and the second tries to produce new reality to influence environment, to add a new reality/possibility to what is going on in the world. To do the second, you need what you mentioned. For the first, you do not need poesis or techne. You use some stupid techniques on the canvas, almost everyone can learn to do it. It’s not creation in any sense, it’s just imitation.
K: In the presentation earlier today, one way an artist goes up the ladder there were some references in the talk suggesting it was a political process. What do you think of a Biennial? Should there be one in Tehran? How do you comment on these instruments in the art world?
A- It is same process. As an artist you think I have to be sold out, to be famous, I have to be in Venice. What kind of works are accepted there? What is the taste of the people who judge? As artist you then do what they want you to do! It is a censorship anyway, unless you are an established artist and you can present everything you want.
K What advice would you give to an Iranian or Greek collector to educate themselves?
A-To search for the third way. The second way is do what you want to do on your walls in your house. Forget the collectors, I do not pay attention to market, I do not want to be in Bienniales. Then you produce artworks for yourself, to please yourself. The other one is to be a slave of culture, slave of the Biennial guys. The third way is maybe the true one. I cannot tell you anything about the content- just can say that there is always a third way. Creative artists are those who can create the third way. It is the same for good collectors.
K- So, what makes a good collector a good collector?
Azadeh- A good collector is very precise, they know art- they have a big collection for the last 40 years. For example, one is himself a sculptor and painter- I was so happy when you bought one of my own, knowing it will be in good hands. I prefer this to someone who just wants to hang it on the wall
Naghme- They sometimes show it for selling. In Iran, we have 2 kinds. One, just has money and wants to do business with artwork today, tomorrow with other things. It is the fashionable today. The other type they know what artwork to choose, how many years to keep it and then show it
Az- It is good for the artists. When a good collector buys my work, many people will know
K-What is your impression of Greece so far as a place that supports or not the arts?
Nag- too soon to say
Actor- No experience.
[K I got a note about Jahar, the filmmaker. What you think of Jahar?
Actor- He was suspended from making movies for 20 years, 6 years suspension because of his participation in demonstration against government.]
K- Regarding the idea of an exchange of Greek and Iranian artists, what would be the benefit to all? What would a skilled Greek artist produce something in Texran that is different from what you do?
Az- I could do similar pictures here. Only I need to have some friends in that country and know how they prefer me. In the new series “Tragic Deaths” too I could see material here.
A- It is not universality, it is exoticism
AZ- Some women said they have similar situation in Greece. They were not themselves. They are different with their parents, their friends. Nobody is themselves
Amir- Ask an Arab what they understand of Plato? 2500 years ago who lived in totally different reality. What can an Arab living in Qatar understand of Plato?
K- Benaki exhibition was entitled Human, Time, Place- 24 artists create interventions as another layer for understanding what is going on. If you were do to same interventions from your vantage point, would there be something interesting?
Nag-We need to visit the space, study it, find the meaning
K The main idea of an intervention is to be critically minded, to Speak Farsi Greek, being able to question, to search for underlying principle
… use word dogma in the sense that dogma is a belief system that is rigid.
[ Actor explains word dogma…]
I notice in the art critic’s presentation some element of the “establishsment” There is an academic fashion for judging the artists, very linear, clear about the antitheses, very provocative “stop being fearful and let s create culture” implying that there is an algorithm a method for making culture. Step 1: wear green shoes Step 2: make powerful friends etc
A-How can we resist ? There is important difference between culture and art. In cinema Spielberg produces culture, Altman produces art although both are film-makers.
K-26 minutes of wisdom on contemporary art in Iran and the West have come to a temporary close. Cheers.