Saturday, March 24, 2012

Iranian Visual Arts in 1390 (March 2011-March 2012)

I usually prepare a new-year present for Neoresistance friends. I admit that I have been much detatched from Iran and its art in the past couple of years. But this BBC (Persian's) compilation of Iranian Visual artists' galleries, exhibitions, and auctions in the year past caught my attention and I decided to report it in English. Translations of titles are mine, unless I find the official title in English/French. I am not sure how comprehensive this review is; but it contains interesting highlights.

The year started with works of internationally known masters in Gallery 10 «گالری ده».

The filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami exhibited a photo collection entitled "The Walls" (دیوارها); a collection of pictures of the walls Kiarostami has potographed in his travels around the world.

The Gallery also showcased the world-famous collection by the sculptor Parviz Tanavoli's entitled "Heech" or Nothing (هیچ) (listen to the artists speak in New York)

and the painting collection of Afshin PirHashemi entitled "Delusions" (??) (گمراهی‌ها). (The picture below is from his website and entitled XSeries, but I am not sure if it is this particular exhibition). This painter sells in Christi's auctions frequently, and his work sells as high as half a million dollars.

Of course, this magnificent opening of the year with the works of these world-famous artists did not mean that there was no governmental pressure on the art galleries. Lili Golestan, the owner of one of the most prestigious of Tehran galleries, complained to ILNA about lack of standard in the "censor's" policy (politics?), stressing that the official's taste often interfered with the agenda of the galleries (a complaint reiterated by the publishers as well). She stated that" in the past, the guidelines of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance were more clear cut, and there was a chance for appealing the decisions, but currently, there is a lack of accountability among the cultural bureaucrats".

Nevertheless, Golestan Gallery succeeded to hold an exhibition entitled "100 works, 100 artists" in July 2011, and the works of masters Iran Darroudi, Hossein ZendeRoudi, Parviz Tanavoli, Sohrab Sepehri, Farideh Lashai were presented next to starting unknown artists. In the opening night, the gallery sold 25 pieces, one of which a work by the contemporary artist Parvaneh Etemadi collecting 6000 dollars. A sample of her work below.

Another highlight for the Iranian visual arts was the opening of NYC's Metropolitan Museum's Islamic Treasures, and exhibit over 50% of its works from Iran. In 2009, Parviz Tanavoli had donated a sculpture from his Poet's collection to the museum to enrich the Islamic Arts section of the museum. Mohammad Ehsai (the 73 years old calligraphist--see his poster below) and Hossein Nasr (American-Iranian Islamic philosopher) were featured in the opening.

Another good news was the opening of a permanent exhibition of the paintings of the "michelangelo of Persia" Kamal-ol-Molk and unveiling his never-seen-before work dating back to the 1900, a portrait of his doorman in Paris (picture below), in Iran's national museum and library.

Iranian artists made strides abroad as well.

The catroonist Kambiz Derambakhsh(کامبیز درم بخش)held an exhibit in Paris and the success of his work published in the French magazine Elle, led to the French publisher Lafon to publish his work (below) in a book. (Like his facebook page) In the coming months, he will be holding an exhibit with the theme of Paris supported by the municipality.

Also, the AB gallery in Switzerland has held exhibits of the works by contemporary artists Samira Hodaei (سمیرا هدایی), Samira Alikhanzadeh (سمیرا علیخانزاده) and a separate exhibit including the works of Farideh Lashai (فریده لاشایی) (see example below) entitled Simply Words? (If you click on this link you can see the Gallery has quite a few Iranian artists in resident).

According to BBC Persian, in September, the Rio de Janeiro's biennial held a tribute in honor of Bahman Jalali, and exhibited 120 of his photographs. I cannot find any reference to this biennial in Rio and BBC has been a bit sloppy lately. But there has been such a tribute in Germany in the Sprengel Museum Hannover.

In London, the exhibition of Parviz Tanavoli's collection Poets in Love on the Austin/Desmond museum was so successful that the exhibition was extended by 10 days.

Here's a list of other events:

Third sculpture symposium in Milad Tower, where 12 Iranian sculptors and 5 artists from Sweden, Japan, Greece, Georgia, and Syria got together to sculpt stone to represent the Isalic/Iranian character of Tehran municipality.

Art galleries seem to have had satisfactory sales, notable is anZarak (زرک) exhibit by Parviz Tanavoli's modern jewelry students sold about 80 pieces by 21 artists for about 17,000 dollars in total.

One of the highest prices in Sothby's auction of Iranian master's work went to a painting by Sohrab Sepehri, valued 325,000$s, and selling in a Sothby's auction in London for 624,000.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Obama's Nowrouz message, another wasted opportunity

I am starting to think MORONS are writing Obama's Iran-related speeches. Listen to this and then read the comment an Iranian wrote in response to this inappropriate RUDE message.

So, Mr Obama is assuming that because Iranians were the first to start a 'twitter' revolution, then giving them internet is the ultimate candy they need to overthrow the regime? IS HE INSANE?

On the NEW YEAR EVE? On the occasion of Norouz, he has the audacity to come before the camera, and address us and say "although we have imposed CRIPPLING sanctions (that are strangling Iran's ECONOMY and THUS ruining the middle classes who are the driving force behind reforms and democracy), but we are giving millions to communication propaganda and internet infrastructure so you can talk to us in our virtual embassy!"

Bloody hell!

Mister Obama, screw the virtual embassy, why don't you instruct those who are running Iranian's counsel affairs in Ankara, Beirut and Abu Dhabi, to facilitate such cultural exchanges by not treating like criminals, our brothers and sisters and old parents who want nothing but to spend a summer, spending their hard earned Dollars on the American economy!! could you be ANY MORE insincere than that? And do you really assume that you can FOOL us with this insincere message, and make us love and trust you? Forgive me, President, every time I listen to one of your little speeches, I am filled with disgust and distrust!

Don't you have proper Iranians who can GUIDE you how to write speeches? And didn't you listen to us when we said, last year, that you flopped?

And I am not alone in hating your speech. Here's what another Iranian says:

I translate and I BEG the White House to read this:

"Your Excellency, Mr president Obama, thank you for greeting us on the occasion of Norouz while you are full force busy with trying to break the economic back of the IRanians people, fully aware that these sanctions will have little impact on the policies of the Iranian government, just as it has been ineffective in the past too!! Thank you for rescuing our hostages while humiliating our nation with threat of war! Thank you for talking about the right of our people to access free internet and satellite without hinting at what is the cause of this problem! Is it not that you have ruthlessly, without attention to the cultural bed of other nations, have besieged them culturally and politically; and with a disproportionate media power are intent on winning the media war whether you are right or wrong? And why don't you mention why China and many other countries are forced to filter you out in order to not have to deal with the cultural and political prematurity of their countries? Why don't you mention why you don't let nations to evolve at their own pace, in a smooth bed and calmly; and why is tension what you seek for other nations most often? And why don't you pack up and leave the Middle East? Mister President, thanks for thinking of us, and from a list of different needs that we have in science, technology, energy, medicine and cancer drugs and many other essential things, whose sanctions is killing hundreds of Iranians, you are most concerned about our people's interactions with the world?!! ... and much more ... Go! God bless your father's spirit! Happy Eid to you too! Have a wonderful year! Say hi to Michelle and kids too!"

Ash Reshteh (Noodle soup) آش رشته

Five years ago, I made a delicious soup, the traditional Aash Reshteh, which is to symbolize holding the "string" (reshteh) of life in the year to come.

I retrieved the recipe from the comments and I think this soup is so good that it deserves a post on its own:

1. Lentils (brown ones) one cup
2. Chic peas (one cup)
3. Red beans (one cup)
4. Spinach (one bag, wash and chop)
5. Herbs: corriander+mint+parsley+leak (0.5 kg; washed and finely chopped)
6. Wheat noodles (250 g)
7. Garlic (2 cloves), finely chopped to small cubes
8. Onion (one large), thinly sliced
9. Turmeric (one table spoon)
10. Dried mint (two table spoons)
11. Vegetable oil, half a cup
12. Optional: one cooked beat, chopped to small cubes
13. Optional: very small meat balls, fried ahead of time.
14. salt to taste

1. Cook beans (not lentils) ahead of time.
2. Fry onions in oil, such that they caramelize,
3. Add turmeric and let it cook with onions for 2-3 mins.
3. Add lentils to onion and toss for a 2-3 mins
4. Add half of the garlic it to the frying lentils and onions. Cook for 2-3 mins on high heat till slightly browned
5. Add herbs and spinach, stir fry for 2 minute,
6. add 8 cups of water and cook until lentils are half cooked.
7. add cooked peas and beans and let it simmer on medium heat for about an hour so ingredients marry well
8. before adding the noodles, increase the heat and wait till the mix comes to a rapid boil, then break noodles in 3 inch pieces and add to boiling water.
9. Cook noodles for 20 minutes
10. Garnish and season

Choose the TASTE
You can make this soup salty: in this case you will need "kashk". You will not find kashk but in Iranian stores. It's a dairy product made from boiled and then dried yogurt. Don't bothermaking it, just ask for "kashk" and the Iranian grocer will show you.

You can make this soup sweet and sour (that I think a southern tradition, but the one I like most)
mix one cup of sugar with half a cup of white-grape vinigar and add to the soup.

In either case, you can add the meatballs and the beat to the soup, just before serving or as garnish.

To garnish (and also to add more flavor), fry the rest of the garlic "slowly" in oil (make sure it doesn't get brown) and 1/4 tbls turmeric. In the last 20 seconds, also add about a table spoon of dried mint. Drain the mint and garlic from oil and decorate the soup with that. The pictures show how my tasteful sister garnishes and decorates ash reshteh. The colors are: red, beats; white, kashk; green, fried mint; yellow, fried garlic and tumeric; light green, tiny Pistachio wedges; brown, meatballs.

Wishes for a new Persian year, 1391.

In a couple of hours, 1390, the year that I turned 40, will come to end. 1390 was the most enlightening of all my life. I ( and my whole family) were given a hard test, and the stoicism of our culture, the strength of character of my parents, and the many years of defiance in the face of impossibly strong adversaries (like the opportunists who ran our country in the name of fanaticism, the imperialists who supported bombing us and attempted--still attempting--to starve us, the war and the fascism or even our mammoth culture which is often too sluggish to move at the pace demanded by modernity) paid off ... We pulled through, and learned how to fight the ultimate adversary.

I am back in America now; with my sister, in a house full of flowers and laughter, trying to joke and play photos until the equinox.

I am back in America, where I am in a perpetual ambivalence about liking this land of opportunity, land of genuinely hard working people, land of kind, caring and warm people, but one which is built on exploitation and meddling in the affairs of others, others who sit on the black gold of oil ...
I am somewhat happy by the poll Americans generated: they don't want war with Iran.
I am happy about the Israeli "We love Iranian" campaign.
I am somewhat happy by the Iranian leadership tempering its absurdism.
I suspect the Saudi Arabians and the Russians and maybe a few Oil monsters in Texas would be happy if this bickering between Iran and Israel and the US goes on, the war agitation continues and their revenues accumulate. I suspect the Israeli leadership may be happy to keep the bickering and the presumed threat of Iranians alive, if it is going to translate to ensuring that the American aid will continue flowing in the form of military aid to fight the Iranian bogyman! I suspect, if the almost-shattered conservative ranks of the Iranian rulers get into real trouble, then they would be more than happy to heat up the air in the balloon of their Anti-Zionist threats to provoke the west and create a sense of danger that would give them an excuse for cracking down dissenters in the name of national security.
But, I suspect war is not in the horizon.
I suspect the external meddlers have given up on assuming they can mobilize an internal revolt to get rid of the Iranian regime. Truth is, Iranians have no real penchant for revolution; for bickering and waving the tides of a movement maybe, for partying and glorifying and symbolizing and creating songs and poems and banners around notions of heroism and justice, yes. But for amassing courage and cause to build a united front? Naah!
In fact, I think a united front is growing gradually out of common interest, out of a need for all parties to compromise in order to survive and remain relevant. Luckily, the Iranian diaspora is beginning to understand that their radical views are little more than theoretical absurdities to people who have real lives in Iran, in all fairness living in complicity with the corruptions and untidiness of the current system, but also full of real paranoia and distrust of the "political" men and their rainbow promises, in general--and that is a FACT of Persian psych, explaining why democracies in Iran have been so vulnerable since inception.
In any event, as 1391 begins, I am jotting down these notes to tell you (if you are still a reader of my neglected blog) that my new year wish is for


Happy Nowrouz; Happy spring; and thank you for not having given up on NeoResistance.