Connective Strings of Resilience


Connective Strings of Resilience
Curator’s note

During the recent four decades, much of what has been discussed or presented about or from a country as culturally, ethnically and geographically vast and diverse as Iran outside of its borders, has been often confined within a very limited framework and merely a small part of an extremely large and sophisticated whole: a curated set tailored for the curious or interested eyes and ears of a ‘foreign’ audience, and promoted via mass and social media. This is especially the case when looking at what has been exhibited in Western Europe and the United States. Visual arts have not been an exemption to this, and due to the considerably narrower focus of experts working on reflecting Iranian visual arts on an international scale, this field has enjoyed relatively small developments.

Most of the material on the events of this country are generated through two channels and by two different sets of reporters, analysts and authors —on one side, the reporters and narrators who rely on general knowledge, executive tools, their media and the power of storytelling to mold narratives of “whatever and wherever”, and on the other side, research experts and prying eyes who believe in the power of direct experience as well as objective analysis. So is the duality in their target audiences: the first are a more general audience whose interest lies more heavily on the side of headlines, less analytical approaches, and more ‘exotic’ material, and the second group comprises of people who are more inquiring and discerning, especially in evaluating the depth of analyses offered by narrators, and feel more reluctant in accepting what is offered by the media and propaganda. The first group are often the audience of the exotic art offered by the creativity of some of the expatriate Iranian artists who look at the events inside the country from a distance, as well as the work of opportunists based inside Iran riding on a mere trend. The second group chose to travel to the country during a time when this was more easily accessible, and wish to gain first-hand experience. Many curators, renowned gallerists, artists, researchers and art practitioners who traveled to Iran, especially from 1995 to 2010, were among such people. These had a deeper, more realistic and comprehensive perspective towards what was happening in the country as well as the artworks and artistic movements that were born out of the real sociopolitical and cultural lives of their creators.

As Iran’s diverse world of imagination becomes increasingly more isolated, what is being depicted as products of its art, culture and thought on the international scale has become less relevant and almost in defiance of the reality on the ground: the exotic productions (a broader category that is not restricted to artworks) now more broadly presented and accepted as rooted in Iran were a mere populist window that relied on superficial social paradoxes. Social tension and dissidence accentuated this trend, and as it took more traction, wider spectrums of people became consumers of what was being offered. For months now, Iran has been on news headlines around the world, and this time, due to the civil and women-led nature of the movement, more emphasis was being put on exoticism and highlighting aspects that the media could more convincingly sell to the widest possible audience, including those who ‘followed’ art and artistic trends. That has been how many of the expatriate Iranians working in visual arts have increasingly produced work that seems to be worlds apart from the work of the younger generations of Iran-based artists as well as what has been going on in the country over the past forty years or so.

Initiated by Ava Ayoubi, the founding director of the young Tehran-based Bavan Gallery, this project hopes to implement a different and non-exotic approach, with a deep focus on artists based in Iran. Maryam Majd Art Projects, a private-sector research-centric curatorial platform, has collaborated with Bavan to realize what it believes to be a shared objective. The project had to be put together in a limited period as it was scheduled to be opened during Art Dubai 2023, and while this set difficult restraints on the scope and practical possibilities, the team effort, determination and collective will, as well as the collaboration of Bavan Gallery, MMAP, 009821 Projects and Tabl Studio made it possible for everything to come together and reach a quality outcome.

Within the contexts of how this exhibition has been defined, works by some of the most well-known Iranian artists have been displayed alongside the work of more emerging artists and younger generations, so as to reflect on the unique experience of each and every one of them as well as show the scale of diversity in this country: the exhibition and the pieces, both in form and content, are witnesses to this very fact and mirrors of life within this land.

Maryam Majd
Founding Director of Maryam Majd Art Projects (MMAP)
Tehran, February 2023