Speak Farsi Greek Statement Ms. Helia Darabi

Amir Ahmadi

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?
Az- yes
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.

Helia Darabi

لذات و مخاطرات راه‌ نو

هلیا دارابی

از حضور جدی جهانی هنر معاصر ایران امروز نزدیک به یک دهه می‌گذرد. در این مدت این هنر با ستایش‌ها، نقدها و دیدگاه‌های متنوعی مواجه شده، و جذابیت غریب‌نما و بومی‌اش به مرور به نفع خوانشی عمیق‌تر و واقع‌گرایانه‌تر کنار رفته است. امروز درباره نگاه یکسونگرانه و منفی غرب به خاورمیانه و ایران بسیار سخن رفته و کم‌کم هنرشناسان و کارگزاران هنری رویکرد محتاطانه‌تری در پیش گرفته، می‌کوشند تمایل به عناصر بومی سطحی و سهل الوصول را به نفع دیدگاه‌های عمیق‌تر و بیان‌های جهانشمول‌تر کنار نهند.

هنرمندانی که آثارشان در این مجموعه به نمایش درآمده همگی در ایران زندگی می‌کنند و برای تحقق این نمایشگاه به طور خودجوش در کنار هم گرد آمده‌‌ و بر مبنای درونمایۀ مورد توافق خود، آثارشان را پدید آورده‌اند. آنان با تکیه بر تجربه روزمره و زیستۀ خویش، مباحث اجتماعی به‌ویژه در حوزه جنسیت را موضوع کار خود قرار داده‌‌اند و به شکاف بین زن و مرد و تلاش و اشتیاق زن ایرانی برای پل زدن بر این فاصله و کسب اختیارات اجتماعی بیشتر پرداخته‌اند. نگرش ایشان صادقانه، خلاقانه و به‌دور از گلایه است و از آنجا که تکیه بر خصایل بومی و وطنی و ویژه را گردن‌‌نهادن به خواست دنیای غرب برای دیدن تصویری متفاوت و غریب‌نما از هنر غیر غربی می‌دانند، ترجیح می‌دهند چنین نقابی را بر چهره نداشته باشند. ارائه توصیفی واحد برای ایشان دشوار است؛ همان‌طور که برای جریان متکثر، پیچیده و گریزندۀ هنر معاصر ایران نیز نمی‌توان بستر واحد و منسجمی متصور شد.

بهار طاهری در تصویر خود از هویت زن معاصر ایرانی بر پوشش و پیوندهای نمادین و عملی آن تمرکز می‌کند. ترسیم زن‌هایی بدون سر و پا نقدی بر نوعی نگاه رایج مردانه به جنس زن به مثابه جنس دوم است. نقش‌های کاشی پس‌زمینه‌ای سنتی را نشان می‌دهد. از سوی دیگر، روحیات، آرزوها، افق‌ها و بلندپروازی‌های بسیار در همین نقش‌های رنگارنگ در پس‌زمینه یا لباس زن تصویر شده است. برآمدگی شکم زن و پروانه‌ای که در کنار او است، از زایش و دگردیسی و آغازی  نو حکایت می‌‌کند.

نقاشی‌های مینو عمادی گونه‌ای مسخ شدگی را به نمایش می‌گذارند. انسان‌هایی که زندانی یک اتاق‌اند، هیچ تلاشی برای تغییر شرایط زندگی‌شان نمی‌کنند و به تسلیم و انفعالی فاجعه‌بار تن در داده‌اند. درونخانۀ بسته و زندان‌وار استعاره از فضای خصوصی و اندرونی است که زن برای آن تعریف شده است، و نمایش چهره‌های مثله شده و هویت‌های چندپاره و شیزوفرنیک به جدالی اشاره می‌کند که در هر ایرانی همه‌روزه بر پاست؛ جدال بین آنچه هست و آنچه وانمود می‌کند.

در کار هما بذرافشان خیال‌پردازی سهم اساسی دارد. محیط‌هایی که او خلق می‌کند به لحاظ نوع رنگ‌گذاری، بافت و مجموعاً برخورد بصری با ساکنان خود عجین شده‌‌اند. از سویی می‌توان تصور کرد که این محیط و پیرامون است که شرایط زندگی ساکنان را تعیین کرده و مسیر زندگی و شخصیت و خوی آنان را می‌سازد؛ از سوی دیگر به‌نظر می‌رسد که این محیط برساختۀ ذهنیت، عقاید و آمال و آرزوهای ساکنان آن است.

بازگشت به گذشته و دوران کودکی در هنر معاصر ایران پدیده‌ای فراگیر است. ابهام در آینده، میل به جستن هویت، شناخت و جست‌وجوی روابط، مسیرها و راه‌حل‌ها، آنها را به مرور خاطره‌ها، آلبوم‌های عکس و سال‌های پیشین می‌کند. تجربه‌ای که غالبا توام با ابهام و آغشته به گرد نوستالژی در آثارشان جلوه می‌کند. آثار نسیم پیرهادی به این ویژگی مشخص‌اند. در آنها می‌توان همچنین پیوند با ادبیات معاصر ایران را بازیافت.

در برخورد هدا کاشیها با پیکر و هویت زنانه، نگاه رئالیستی بی‌طرفانه و صادقانه‌ای را شاهدیم که دقت و حساسیت یک مطالعه علمی را به نمایش می‌گذارد. به جز پیکرها عنصر دیگری در نقاشی وجود ندارد، بنابراین توجه اصلی بر ژست و پوشش‌شان متمرکز می‌شود، که عمدتاً نمونه‌هایی از سلیقه و خلاقیت فردی در انتخاب پوشش‌اند. پیکرها در کنار یکدیگر چیدمان شده‌‌اند، به‌گونه‌ای که ارتباطی مستقیم با محیط و بینندگان برقرار کرده، آنها را در میان خود و جزئی از گروه خود قرار دهند، و از طریق این مقایسه او را به توجه در ظاهر و پوشش خود وادار و از این زاویه به تعمق در حقایقی در زندگی خود هدایت کنند.

آنچه در نقاشی نغمه اصلانی موج می‌زند تردید است. چهار زن امروزی ایرانی به‌وضوح در فضا شناورند و تردید و نگرانی در چهره‌شان آشکار است. پوشش و آرایش‌شان نشان می‌دهد دخترانی از قشر دانشجو یا کارمند از طبقه متوسط‌اند، قشری که عموماً مایل به حضور و مشارکت در جامعه است و برای این کار باید بر محدودیت‌ها و موانعی که خاص هر جامعۀ در حال گذار از زندگی سنتی به مدرن است، غلبه کند. در شرایطی که راه‌ها و انتخاب‌های از پیش تعیین شده فراوان‌تر و آسان‌تر به نظر می‌رسند، این دختران مایل‌اند راهی نو و غیر از آنچه همگان رفته‌‌اند را در پیش بگیرند.

علیرضا بشیری راد در پرداختی هزل‌آمیز، مخدوش شدن حریم‌ها، چه در زندگی خصوصی افراد و چه در محیط اجتماع را موضوع کار خود قرار داده است. او الگوهای آشنا و مکرر پوشش و شخصیت افراد را از محیط بی‌واسطه پیرامون خود انتخاب کرده، آنها را به‌نحوی بی‌پروا و عیان در ترکیب‌ها، همنشینی‌ها و روابطی نامتعارف قرار می‌دهد.

تنها نمونۀ عکاسی در بین این هنرمندان آزاده اخلاقی است. او در عکس‌های صحنه‌سازی شد‌ه‌اش تمایل به ساختارشکنی در سطحی بنیادین دارد. با طرح مفهوم «دیگری بزرگ»، او نه تنها ساختارهای سنتی جامعۀ خویش، بلکه نگرش کلیشه‌ای و جبری دنیای غرب را به نقد می‌کشد. او که در مقام عضوی از اجتماع انسانی، بزرگ‌ترین سرمایه‌اش علم به این وضعیت است، لجوجانه می‌کوشد ساختارهای نمادین از پیش تعیین شده را نفی کند یا نادیده انگارد. در عرصۀ این جدال، او نگاه آمرانه و فلج‌کننده دیگری بزرگ را با نگاه مطمئن خویش پاسخ می‌دهد: «نیرومند‌ترین نگاه به چهره‌ی دیگری، نگاه سرد و بی‌حالت است.»

سخن فارسی-یونانی تلاشی است برای ساختن پلی نو بین دو فرهنگ کهن که پیشاپیش پیوندهای بی‌شماری بین آنها برقرار است. این هنرمندان کوشیده‌اند به دور از کلیشه‌های قوم‌شناسانۀ متداولی که حول ایران و هنر ایرانی شکل گرفته، در سطحی بین‌المللی با جهان هنر تعامل کنند. این نمایشگاه دریچه‌ای است به فرهنگی مشحون از سنت که در بستری مرکب از رویدادهایی بسیار پیچیده و متکثر زندگی و تعامل با دنیای معاصر را تجربه می‌کند.


The Delights and Perils of a New Path

By Helia Darabi

Since 2001 when the Barbican centre organized a group show of Iranian artists, curated by Rose Issa in collaboration with Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iranian art has never been missing from the international scene. In this decade, it has received various regards, gratitude and critics. Its exotic attractions have gradually given way to a more profound, realistic treatment and a larger cluster of artists from different ages and approaches have contributed in its development as now one of the liveliest art scenes in the Middle East.

This new artistic wave has effectively challenged the one-sided and negative portrayal of Iran and Middle East in general in Western world. Focusing on their everyday, lived experience, this young generation has developed a socially sensitive, politically critical art which puts aside indigenous, easy-to-grasp elements in favor of deeper considerations. Remarkably, women have a major role in the whole movement.

The young artists whose works have been presented in this show all live in Iran, thus face the existing restriction of artistic expressions which, ironically, has led to more flourishing art. They have spontaneously gathered together and have developed these pieces around their agreed theme.

Relying on their personal lived experience, they have especially addressed gender issues; the gap between men and women and the hopes and endeavors of the Iranian women to bridge this gap and acquire further social autonomy.  Aligned with Iran’s freedom-seeking youth culture, they seek to observe the social inequalities, restrictions and violation to individual rights and privacy.

Minoo Emadi depicts people as imprisoned in a chamber, with no will to make any change in their situation, given up to a tragic surrender. The dark, prisonlike interior is an allegory of the inner spacewhich historically has restricted and confined the woman. The mutilated, schizophrenic faces refer to the battle raging in every Iranian in their everyday life; a battle between what they are and what they pretend to be.

Naghme Aslani’s painting is all about uncertainty. Four Iranian present-day middle class young women are hovering in the foreground, their faces marked with hesitation and concern. Their clothes and make up marks them as student or employees, the ones who seek to be more engaged in social interaction. They naturally face hindrances and limitations characteristic of a society in transition from traditional to modern life. Though predetermined, stereotypic choices seem more accessible, they seek newer, unexamined ways.

Fantasy has given a major part in Homa Bazrafshan’s painting. She creates environments which seem to be visually mixes and intermingled with their inhabitants. They make us to assume that the environment has determined the creatures’ identity, mood and the ways of being. However, we also tend to believe that this is their mentalities, believes and dreams which has made up their environment.

A return to childhood and past memories is a recurrent theme in Iranian contemporary art.  The vagueness of future leads the young to review their memories, their family albums and their past years to examine old ties and relations, seek solutions and put together a collective memory. This approach is generally revealed as vagueness and nostalgia in their art. Nassim Pirhadi is an example of this nostalgic attitude, which also reveals close ties with contemporary Persian literature.

In her representation of Iranian contemporary woman, Bahar Taheri emphasizes on the clothing and its symbolic as well as practical associations. The women’s heads and feet are off the composition, referring to the reception of woman as a second sex. However, long wishes and dreams and ambitions are symbolized in the colorful tile motifs of the flowery dress of the woman. The enlarged belly and the butterfly allude to a rebirth, a metamorphosis and a new beginning.

Hoda Kashiha’s approach to female body and identity is a realistic, objective one, infused with the precision and attention of a scientific study. Paintings include nothing but the figures, so the emphasis goes to their poses and clothing, which on the whole manifests their personal taste and creativity. The large figures are adjacently installed so as to surround and involve the viewer, and make her to contemplate on her appearance, and accordingly on her more major choices.

In a cynical approach, Alireza Bashiri Rad deals with the distortion of and the privacy of individuals, both in private and public life.  He takes typical characters from his immediate surroundings, putting them, in bold and explicit poses, in unusual relations and combinations.

Azadeh Akhlsghi is the only photographer in the group. In her staged photographs she shows a deconstructive manner in a much more radical level. By suggesting a challenge to the “Great Other” she actually faces not only the traditional, patriarchic structures of her home, but also the stereotyped, determinative attitude of the west. As an individual whose major control is the awareness of this fact, she insistently tries to defy or ignore the symbolic, predetermined structures. In this battle, she turns back the paralyzing gaze of the Great Other with her confident gaze: “the most powerful gaze is a deadpan one.”

Speak Farsi-Greek is an attempt to make a bridge. Far from ethnographic representations and aesthetic clichés developed around the image of Iran, it tries to communicate in an international level. This is an aperture to a culture imbued with tradition which, through a most complex and dynamic experience, is coming to terms with the contemporary world.


Helia Darabi is a PhD candidate in Art Research, Art University, Tehran, also a critic and freelance curator.