Insight Iran: A Report by Meta Marina Beeck
In 2015, I showed the video work “A Dowry for Mahrou“ (2006) by Samira Eskandarfar, who lives and works in Teheran, in Kunsthalle Bielefeld. The reactions of the visitors during the exhibition that lasted from July 22nd to August 30th in 2015 were interesting to me, as the image of Iran –without doubt ever-changing – is quite deadlocked for many.
This is why I consider it even more important to get to know artists in situ. Through Samira Eskandarfar I soon made contact with the independent art space New Media Society who invited me for a lecture in Teheran.
In May 2016 I traveled to Iran for a two week-long research trip. In my lecture I spoke about recent developments in video art and showed Sven Johne’s work “Jutta” (2014). His work is quite political, but in Iran political issues are not discussed publicly. So, the discussion I was hoping for only took place when the official part of the lecture ended and we sat down with tea and biscuits on the terrace. I was asked many times about my role as art historian and my opinion about Iranian art. Retrospectively, I believe those talks were an important entry to the Iranian art scene. During the following days I spent a lot of time with artists who had approached me to show me their works and the art scene of Teheran and Isfahan.
The many talks I have had in Teheran, Shiraz and along the way and the friendships that have developed within that short time have provided me with a thorough impression and feeling for the art and art education scene in Iran. Concerts, lectures and performances often take place underground and as a person coming from the outside, you need an entry point to find out about those events. Art spaces and their events are restricted, which is why they inform their visitors by text messages and mails that redirect them to their programme on the homepage or on Facebook. Although Facebook is blocked in Iran, many young people access it through alternative ways to get information about events. At the same time, art is pushing outwards. I have met many young performance artists who explore public space and its significance with their actions.
During my trip of ten days I have gained a lasting impression of the Iranian society and art that I will take along in my next projects. I have already made plans for further projects and am looking forward to meeting some of the artists again.