U & I

U & I

We are together but our hearts are so far away
Always there has been this big wall of pride between us
None of us has anything new to say
Our laughter lights have been left off for a long time

U & I
U & I
U & I
We sing together but quietly
We are together but separately ….

There were nights we sat and talked long about past
All our promises have been put off day after day for ages
We have already made all the promises and told everything
There is nothing more to say

U & I
U & I
U & I
We sing together but quietly
We are together but separately ….

Our red flowers are left rotten in the garden
The old clock on the shelf has stopped working
Even the flowers in the carpet have turned to yellow
They are also bored with all the everyday talks of you and me

U & I
U & I
U & I

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“U & I” Photo Gallery

Velvet Ghaba

There is a time when clothing finds an importance far beyond covering and becomes the window for people’s ideas, the absence of Mass media turns it in to a tool; The softness of velvet reminds the rulers of individuals who chose to believe differently, clothing becomes a media to express art , far beyond fashion.

In the series “ Velvet Ghabas “, clothing embodies media and shows up in form of Ghaba; Ghaba’s were worn by  the elite of the country and here it is again worn by same people and within it’s inner layers depicts designs that are the signs and symbols of the “others“ . Ghaba was the clothing of eminent men of the country and was often used to cover musical instruments .The instruments became smaller so that they could be covered up, but the music remained with the help of Ghabas.

In this story what is underneath the Velvet Ghaba’s will remain protected despite the harshest pressures and controls. And that is the magic of Persian culture.

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“Velvet Ghaba” Photo Gallery

 

Fatness upon Fatness – 100

They Devour, consume and get fat; fatter and fatter…nobody likes them…they want more and more. They have to stay strong, they have to devour, they need to satisfy their appetite. They are short of breath and are breathing heavily. They are tired but they are still devouring like a sick person, they consume.

We are alike: this city and I. We grow up together, we reach everywhere together, we devour all that surrounds us together and lie down but there is no tranquility. We destroy…we are restless. We destroy from within and without; hopelessly. We increase in size; we get to be giants and with this growth we destroy ourselves from within. We destroy in order to rebuild, we are re-born out of what we have destroyed…we want everything out of limits; we want the buildings to reach the skies, we want vastness as far as the eyes can see, we want destruction to be endless and death be complete. May we be born again out of death. Something might begin when it all ends. What is born though might be an unknown; incomprehensible and strange. We have no other alternatives.

My body has spread along the foothills of the Alborz mountains. Large and fat is my city, we are alike and as for me: “whatever I touch in this city brings me pain”.

 

* From poem The Horses, Garrous Abdolmalekian

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“Fatness upon Fatness – 100” Photo Gallery

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Parallel accidents, parallel images, and parallel lines of the railroads leading to places that I do not know.
Parallel incidents, parallel sounds, and parallel columns of the newspaper informing me about people and places that I do not recognize. Parallel narratives, parallel faces, and parallel shapes on a 30cm ruler that I shake in my hand, and with each movement an image appears, and another disappears in between the parallel lines. Parallel to all these things reminiscent of thirty years of anxiety that parallel compilations in cinema depict. A parallel anxiety in the 30 year-game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” in which I am destined to choose the Paper at the risk of being cut by the Scissors, with the parallel Rock that I am determined to wrap, if the Scissors allows. A childish game of all these parallels, which with the slightest movement, hesitation, or a momentary lapse, changes its role, and whatever the new role maybe, it will certainly be predestined by the grown-up game.

Occasionally, I dream of one of them, the dream of those whose pictures were shown between 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. before the Children’s Program on Channel One, the dream of one of those whom we were told that “she has left her house and has since not returned.” I dream that I have coincidentally seen one of them somewhere, in a shop, in the alley or on the staircase, with a face covered in print-letters, staring me in the eye. In my dreams, I want to jump and call someone to say that I have found one of the “Lost Ones.” I do not remember if I had seen her image on “The Lost” TV program or in my father’s newspaper, the paper that was passed from hand to hand and whose important sections were clipped, and I could read the words of “Fire,” “Blood,” “Machine gun,” “Firing squad,” and the “Yes and No.” Those days of 30 years ago, I imagined that my greatest life duty was to gaze at the eyes of “The Lost,” and to memorize them well, so that one day, somewhere, I would find them and relieve a “family’s anxiety.”

I still dream about them, many are children – perhaps grown up now – and the aged whose description says “with slight absent-mindedness…” I see one of them more often, sometimes in a shop’s display window, or here in my room, with a straight bang, small eyes, wearing a checkered skirt. For 30 years, I am embarrassed to tell anyone that I have found one of “The Lost.”

 

“Rock, Paper, Scissors” Photo Gallery

Unfinished Puberty

It is left unfinished. There was no heart and soul to finish it off as there was no hope of exhibiting it in Iran. No official or unofficial gallery would hang such things on its walls. Things which tickle social and moral taboos. The official ones know where they stand and the unofficial ones prefer to do simple and easy works which do not raise hell either with government agencies or their viewers. They have to be something beautiful, acceptable and saleable. But these works draw frowns from both friends and acquaintances.

Its idea came to me after the Abu Reyhan series when I had placed all my daily belongings on the copying machine. From my painting materials and unwashed glasses to dead cockroaches and wrenches and necklaces and … then my sanitary pads stained from various days with drops of light or heavy blood on their surfaces. Bloody sanitary pads as that part of womanhood which must always be hidden.

I remember the first time I got my period at twelve; my sister gave me Letter to an Unborn Child by Oriana Fallaci to read. It threw me into a womanly world with its musts and must nots and its shares and boundaries. Even though gradually I found out these boundaries were more pronounced on this side of the world. From that day I had to become a wiser girl and acts appropriate for boys were not so for me. One by one the boys in our street would be killed in the war and our part was to cry and embroider infant bibs in the arts and crafts session at school. We got older and our share of life was determined. It was decided that the men, however they wanted, run the world with money and politics and we, beautiful and kind and patient and quiet, help them out without a vote nor an opinion. All that was wanted of me at home, school and television, was being a woman in its sole sense of the word but only as far as it pleased men, flashy and attractive. The ugliness of womanhood to be ours in private.  Seven days of the week, the blood which we should have thrown up on the manly world filled with war and money and politics and advertisements, we would quietly shed from below without anyone seeing so that our mysterious womanhood which was inspiration for their literature and art and knowledge and politics, not be diminished. The monthly period, seven days of unsightliness and ugliness, neither worthy of holy figures nor of cinematic stars. Seven days of sole womanhood, forbidden to bed and love and mosque. Seven days of creation.

It is now twenty three years since I became a complete woman. I went to school and throughout the month I work as much as men do to make a living and it is only during these seven days when I recall my being a woman. I embroider my sanitary pads, delicately, womanly and tastefully. I embroider my dailies, a watch, spoon and fork, a dead fish, money, birth certificate and newspaper headlines so that golden embroidery around the blood stains… I embroider and men still die in wars.

I wanted to call it Puberty. When it remained unfinished I named its folder the Unfinished Series and now I call it Unfinished Puberty although maybe I’ll finish it with the excuse of an exhibition on the other side of our borders. Twenty three sanitary pads embroidered carefully in golden frames, flashy and attractive. They like this kind of work, works which we (Easterners) can’t exhibit in our country, they call them “underground” and maneuver them to tell their own without looking for the why of their non-exhibition or remembering that they too do not exhibit certain things. They know very well how to make an advertising toy out of anything. And if it has a womanly feel due to the term “feminism”, it is then separated from human concerns and only the political advertisements of an Eastern woman are associated with it. I proposed this series to several foreign exhibitors. They too did not show it. The sky is the same color everywhere. They too want works from Easterners which smack of being Eastern and objection and limitation and … to be shown in museums as contemporary Eastern oddities which apply to different tastes. Unaware of the fact that humane words have no geographical borders and boundaries and at any rate the sky cannot be seen from underground.

 

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“Unfinished Puberty” Photo Gallery

Letters I Never Wrote

They are the visual memory of a nation. They record moments of victory, what has been built or brought to fruition. They commemorate those deemed great or those who have done great things. They preserve what we have and what we no longer do. They stand for that which a nation, a generation or a sovereign leaves behind within a frame of time and is proud of it. Stamps, these small pieces of paper with their perforated edges, are the official memory of a nation. They are the proud ambassadors of their time.

Since I started writing — writing letters — at the age of 7, I have been hard put finding stamps that hinted at the realities that I had witnessed. The current reality, the unofficial current reality, that pointed to destruction, extinction and silent deaths. My memory has always pointed to the destruction of which ancestors have tried to preserve, and to the things that have been lost more than those that have been gained. These are the stamps that befit the times that we are living in, for friends that live afar, and for the letters that I have never written. For me, the documented, official truth, is that helpless panther or deer, on the brink of extinction, due to the carelessness of their custodians, and the foolishness of the people. The dams, refineries, and the “glorified” projects, which on the surface, are the symbols of development, however, they have brought us no gift, but the annihilation of our cultural heritage and our ancient monuments (in which, we so much pride ourselves); as well as the deterioration of our environment, by destroying the grand oak and poplar forests, and through polluting our aquifers, and by useless disturbance of the harmonious lives of the natives and their surrounding nature. The intellectuals and luminaries, who have either, died in exile, disrespect, and silence, without ever receiving their dues through some commemoration; or that they have been the victims of ideological prejudices and petrified politics of the all powerful official forces. The letters which I did not write as I was reticent to open painful memories of what I had witnessed in these years of murder and persecution. My heart was not able to express to those dear ones, afar, how the law, in this land, orders the stoning and the massacre of the youth. No, neither the heart could express, nor the hand could write.

Now, on the back of the official stamps with unlimited print runs, I record my own unofficial memory, in limited editions. One hundred stamps of either in ones, twos or fours, in ten editions (can the share of this unofficial memory be more than this?), except a single stamp of myself with no editions, bringing the total to 1001 stamps, a number commensurate with the story that I am telling, for storytelling is my profession, be what it may when the morning comes.* I document so as not to forget what has befallen us and me.

 

* I am of course referring to the One Thousand and One Night tale in which the storyteller Shahrzad saves a victim with her stories each night that she keeps with them.

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“Letters I Never Wrote” Photo Gallery

Messages

“Messages” is a ten-minute video project made up of three parts and three messages, messages such as those sent over mobile phones or the Internet – however over the image of the message’s owner; over my image. The image has been divided into three frames and in each is a shot of my face, from the shoulders up, like employee photographs and the only movement is that of transition from frontal to profile like the mug shots at a police station. Happy and calm I send a not-so happy message to an unknown recipient. I send news of going into a coma which is trivial and mild and I hope for its rapid improvement. A coma which is absolute and there’s not much hope of its improvement in reality. A naïve hope for the improvement of the situation.

Messages by Jinoos Taghizadeh

After the first message, black and white images are seen from the wandering eye of the camera which searches in the streets of the city, sometimes slowly and dragged out and at other times fast, rushed and agitated and records images which are sometimes illusionary from the lines on the carpet underfoot, it rests on the lines of the sidewalk. From the motorcyclists and military men and accidents, from the people and the technology-filled bazaar and slow business, from sitting in cafes and streets and its trees from the end and while sleeping… over these images the sound of breathing is heard, the sound of heavy slowing breathing. The sound of comatose breathing under the oxygen tent, an oxygen the presence of which is not heard.

In the next message the face is not so smiling, it is tired and wants to hide this tiredness and tells of a headache which is probably the result of sleeping pills. But it says that it woke up in the morning with a smile for it may have seen a good dream. This time, believing the situation, she wants to exude a bit of inkling of hope and finding a way to escape the situation.

Again black and white images and the city amid which cockroaches are dying and cuts of meat hanging in its butcher shops can be seen. Bookstores and hesitation over the names and faces of writers and intellectuals, dolls hung over the doorways of shops not so unlike cuts of meat. And the stare of the camera with its heavy breathing descends the stairs into the depths of the ground.

In the next message the image is neither happy nor hopeful. It is broken and near tears and sends a simple message like the voice which telecommunication sends over the mobiles. It is that I am not reachable and all lines to my destination are busy. It believes its situation. There’s no hope.

Everything in everyday life is perhaps a sign of a greater reality. That is why these simple everyday messages can be revealing of the general situation and times of which we are a part. In “Messages” I present my everyday with just a little dependence on symbols.

This work was exhibited in July of 2006 at Tarahan Azad Gallery.

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“Messages” Photo Gallery

A Performance to Forugh and An Incomplete

Forugh Farrokhzad was born on 5 January 1940 and passed thirty two years later, on February 13. At the time she was the most important contemporary poet of Iran. A poet who was not much liked by the cultural canon and the male world, for she would break the laws of their world in both life and poetry, which were one and the same. In homes they were not so eager for their youth, especially their daughters, to read her poetry — they were considered loose. Men were allowed to do that. But we read and grew up and lived with her poetry.

Two years ago (2004) on her birthday, I prepared a street performance for I believed observing her birthday was more important than wailing her absence. From a bookstore in Bagh-Ferdows in northern Tehran, I set off for Zahir od-Dowleh Cemetery, the poet’s final resting place, with an arm full of posters, a bucket of glue and a brush, like city workers. I had photocopied pages of Forugh’s books and her photographs. I had printed my hand, complete with finger-rings, over these images, as if to leave my own mark on her poetry — Forugh.

Neither my appearance nor what I was gluing to the wall looked like what a city worker would do. People gathered, started reading or checking it out. The elders, the same ones who for a lifetime had forbidden Forugh to their sons and daughters, quickly recognized the face and the poetry — perhaps in secret many had read her. And the younger people seemed to have seen her before. You may refuse to accept Forugh but you cannot ignore her. In a politicized city such as Tehran, many quickly connected her to the current political issues. Here and there they stood around the pictures in discussion. During a three-hour-long walk, the route was filled with posters, even though twice the city workers and police tore the papers off the walls and took away the glue and brush with threats. But in the afternoon, if you would follow the images here and there, you will reach her grave, under the light snow fall of which a small crowd had celebrated her birthday with a small cake.

My plan had been to have another performance 14 days later on the anniversary of her death and follow the same route with a backpack filled with a blue-colored powder. A backpack punched with a hole which would mark the entire route with blue paint. If you were to follow the blue paint, you’d reach Forugh, Forugh Farrokhzad. The heaviest snow of the year fell and I was stuck…. Now maybe this year….

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“Forugh Performance” Gallery

Abureyhan Self-Portraits

It began as a personal diary in the summer of 2004. I was walking on Abureyhan Street. I looked at my hands, which always say more about me than my made-up face. My hands are plain and unadorned, just me, changing everyday.

When I placed my hand on the copy machine and pushed the button under the surprised gaze of the store owner, I recorded myself on that day. I continued on the next day, and the next, everyday in early summer — the imprint of a warm summer dream. It was my first colorful dream in years, one that I thought I had lost….

The summer ended and a pleasant taste stuck to the back of my throat – with a bit of bitterness perhaps – the desire to duplicate infected objects in my home and personal things. I copied the hands or the belongings of people who had been around my house, the house on Abureyhan Street. In this precious, windowless house, which doubles my thirst for the sky, a sky which Abureyhan al-Biruni, the 9th century astronomer, had studied and wrote about so poetically, in the small geography that I try to know myself, the desire for registering the house pervades, the desire for recording myself – even in parody – this newly found self and the colorful world around it, and my hands.

This collection was in three separate sections, which were shown in the winter of 2004 at Aria Art Gallery, on three levels. On the first level visitors could see paintings in a large and lit hallway. Seventeen works in big frames made up of the diary that I had created with the aid of the copying machine — colorful, the same way that others see me, made-up and happy, with jazz music in the background.

Abureyhan Self-Portraits Sculptures

One level down, I placed my sculptures. This was a small area with brick walls and dim light and music (a fusion of traditional songs and melodies of the Middle Ages}. The sculptures depicted the same elements and symbols which we had seen in the paintings, but this time in bronze and patina, set in boxes and on stands, the way we works in a museum, akin to objects pulled out of ancient tombs, from whose careful examination something could be said about their inhabitant.

On the lowest level, a two-hour video was playing. For one hour in the morning and one in the evening I hung a camera around my neck and went around the house doing what I usually do: eat, drink, make phone calls, go to the bathroom and paint. At night , for  a long time I sat in front of the Internet, chatting with on-line friends. A virtual party in the silence of a house. I invite my friends for this exhibition, which are mostly young men; simultaneously I search for the works of an artist in another windows, the works of Artemisia Gentileschi who had been hurt by and was hostile to men.

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“Abureyhan Self-Portraits” Gallery

A Performance for a Nazr, A Nazr for a Performance

September 7, 2003. Seven boxes of pears. The intention: nazr — a form of pledge, an agreement with God. One hundred kilos of pears is pledged. The money comes from the sale of a piece of gold, which was no doubt precious one day, but that now there was no longer a need for it. What’s more, it had become a burden, a shackle. The 7th of September. My wish to has been fulfilled. I am grateful. I pledged that instead of the usual alms and donations, I offer people a nazr performance in a public space. Nazr is ritual and every ritual has an element of performance.

Nazr

This nazr is perform in shadow of a mosque, my very own, the only mosque without a minaret, under the Naqsh-e Jahan sky, facing Ali-Qapu Place, which at one time had been the royal Safavi residence. The women of the harem would come to this mosque through an underground passage. “Sheikh Lotfollah” is the only mosque in the Islamic world intended for women. Of the two elements usually found in mosques — the male minaret and female dome — it has only the dome. A simple square-shaped geometry forms its interior space and tiled latticed windows carry the rays of light diagonally inside. It has no glory and magnificence and is beautiful and peaceful, befitting of women who had to be calm, patient and pretty.

The half-shadows of a September afternoon — the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Esfahan

A ten-meter canvas tarp is spread out in front of the mosque’s entry. Seven boxes of pears, fresh and cleanly washed, are set on top of it for the nazr. People are at first hesitant then come forth with questions, waiting for an offer. The pears are spread out over the canvas and some tumble in the half shadows, with the seductive small of their waists, their unassuming poetry hidden and revealed in their shape.

We are ready — the pears, my fiends and I — all having come from Tehran… With an offer the crowd bends over the canvas. Each takes a share, either enough for a small bite or to fill buckets and coats. With the bat of an eyelid, the spread is cleared. All the pears are gone, the ones with marks even.

A short while later the building of Sheikh Lotfollah remains along with the canvas, which the wind takes away.

In September 2003 Jinoos Taghizadeh set up a performance outside the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Esfahan’s Naqsh-e Jahan Square. This was the first in the set of three “offerings” or “pledges” that she intends to perform. The timing of the two other nazr performances is contingent upon the fulfillment of their conditions. According to the customs, one should never speak of the reasons for which the pledge or nazr is done.

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“A Performance for a Nazr, A Nazr for a Performance” Photo Gallery