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Tehran (Part 2)

Tehran blog – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

The other curators went home early on Sunday morning, leaving me with three days to pursue my own interests. They suggested some artists whom they thought I might find interesting to meet – a useful edit function enabled by my late arrival in Tehran.

It was good to spend a few days meeting artists on a 1:1 basis, and I seemed to get around vast, traffic-laden Tehran well enough, flagging down taxis and waving bits of paper with addresses in Farsi at the drivers. I had made my presentation about our work on Saturday evening with some trepidation. Only having been there for two days, I did not know whether the Tehran artistic community would relate to Arts Catalyst’s concerns with science-society issues and to the type of art we commission – often ephemeral and performative, experimental and process-based. But the response was warm, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, both for experimental works (such as Tomas Saraceno’s solar dome) and for relevant themes, like the Nuclear exhibition. Although I was frequently told that there was nothing like our work in Iran, I could clearly see potential for collaborative projects. One artist I met with, for example, did not initially understand why I would be interested in his work, but by the end of our meeting we had found several points of intersection and he showed me some early sketches for machine-works touching on highly controversial themes, including a torture machine and another belching oil.

One of my most interesting meetings was with the architect Kianoosh Vahadi, whose new group IOAA (Interdisciplinary Office of Art & Architecture) is a network of artists, architects, writers and thinkers, developing collaborative projects particularly focusing in issues relating to the urban environment. We discussed the changes that mass communication – the internet, satellite television (although the latter is officially illegal) – has brought to Iran, and our conversation also meandered across science, doubt, prison design, earthquakes and other subjects. Another memorable meeting was with Bita Fayyazi, an established international artist, at her studio. Fayyazi obsessively makes large numbers of objects and beings; famous works include her film Road Kill in which150 terracotta run-over dogs were buried in a mass grave, and installations using 2000 plus ceramic cockroaches that she made.

I spent a lovely evening at the home of the painter Khosrow Hassanzadehand his wife, the photographer Eugenie Dolberg. Khosrow’s warm gentle nature belies his dramatic biography: from Islamic militant and war soldier to fruit bazaar vendor to an international career in the arts. We spent the evening discussing Tehran life, Iranian politics and art. I was very tempted to go out with Khosrow the following day to his ‘factory’ well outside Tehran where he is building a number of large domes for his latest project, but felt I should stick to my schedule of meeting Tehran artists.

Tehran is a fascinating place, full of contradictions and contrasts. By the end of my stay, I was tired of the pollution and would have loved to have got out to see more of Iran, but it was a first trip and hopefully we will find reason to return, building on the relationships started.

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