Every city is a particular place, but it has cinematic connections to all the other great cities of the world, their projections traversing time and space. As The Naked City, a 1948 noir, opens with a panning shot over the city where I live, it seems to me that movies invent views as well as plots, contrary to what is believed to be a camera’s power to strip the object in its eye, making that what is hidden visible—that is why cameras have been banished from some places. Exteriority of locations in film lends sociability to the production of private spectacle. In Iran, where public representation of private life is tightly legislated, film and video are developing in the opposite directions—film directors, who are under greater control, tend to situate private dramas in public spaces, especially where female characters are involved, in order to reconcile fictional reality of privacy and its public representation in film in compliance with the codes of representation. Video art production, on the contrary, may not be subject to such codified restrictions—these regulations would only factor in public exhibition. Video makers address public and social issues in private settings and further interiorize them through personal and intimate approaches. However, those artists who work in the public space despite prohibitions play important societal roles, inserting their personal point of view into the public sphere, and, via this insertion, potentially modifying the codes of public life and its representation. A woman with a video camera—all the artists in this program happen to be female, asserting the feminine position in the public sphere—can turn its surveiling insight at the powers that be. The artists take to the streets of Tehran, and show us their city as they live it. This selection of video art, documentary film, and performance documentation conveys their points of view.
Featuring: Simin Keramati, Shirin Mozaffari, Rosita Sharafjahan, Neda Razavipour & Rambod Vala, Jinoos Taghizadeh, Negar Tahsili, and Neda Zarfsaz
Curated by Sandra Skurvida
Sohrab M. Kashani transmitting from Tehran for A Practical Demonstration, a project by Jon Rubin and Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA, July 11, 2008
WHO, BY WHOM, AND FOR WHOM: PRESENTATION OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN IRAN AND REPRESENTATIONS OF THE ART OF IRAN ELSEWHERE
by Sandra Skurvida
In a sociopolitical context where national legislation heavily mediates the private and public sphere, how do art and curatorial practice intervene to both convey and resist the limits set on the circulation of art in public life? How does the social impact of art manifest itself within a space of regulated spectatorship? And how does a deregulated form of spectatorship engage with the art conceived in restricted environments? This inquiry examines these questions relative to current art practices in Iran and their transnational circulation, cross-examining variances of presentation and representation in different contexts in Iran and the United States.
Disturbing public opinion
Just as the space of protest can be both private and public, so too is the space of a work of art. Creative act cannot fully be realized in the absence of spectatorship. Thus, the ability to be public and produce a public is the lifeline of contemporary art, and enables it to be a vehicle for critique. However, its public nature also means that artistic action can be legislated and is punishable by law. Governmental restrictions of cultural production render contemporary artists susceptible to being charged with disturbance of the public sphere. Artist and writer Barbad Golshiri plots the ideological structure of the socially engaged art world in Iran in a diagram entitled Disturbing the Public Opinion. It takes as its starting point, “Disturbing public opinion,” which opens onto three avenues: “Disturbing the public opinion as charge,” “Disturbing the public opinion as disturbing the doxical,” and “Disturbing the public opinion as transitory legislation.” He then examines how and to what extent these tactics can elude ideological control and produce dissent within Iran’s legislated public space. Golshiri’s chart provides a framework for the commentary that follows, which examines an array of transgressive art practices and their transnational states.
Limited Access Four: Festival of Video, Sound, and Performance, Tehran 11-16 January, 2013. Organized by Parkingallery Projects in collaboration with Aaran Gallery
Full program: http://limitedaccessfestival.com/home.php
Mehraneh Atashi, Study in V/2, 2013. Courtesy the artist
My relation to the Other is first and fundamentally a relation of being to being, not of knowledge to knowledge.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 244