There is no document of culture
that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
How is it possible to resign yourself to watching Baghdad and Iraq pass from being the cradle of mankind to the grave of history, from the Mesopotamian dream watering its land to the conflicts of the last few decades, relentlessly burning it? How do artists of all backgrounds (Iraqis, but not only) set forth on the trails of a heritage that is, if not erased, at the very least riddled with missing spaces? In this tragic context, how are we to re-think the fate of the national heritage, when the museum-city has seen its vestiges first moved to European museums, and then reduced to ashes?
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BAGHDAD
Iraq Museum, Assyrian art halls, lower floor, 1970s (Faraj Basmachi, Treasures of the Iraq Museum, Ministry of Information, Baghdad, 1975-1976)
May. 21 2018 | Non classé |
May 2014. Setting up the exhibition Unedited History: Iran 1960-2014, at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, (then at MAXXI, Rome). Unpacking surrealistic, iconoclastic collages by Bahman Mohassess (1931-2010) with a view to presenting them as the first works the visitor sees in the exhibition. A storm of hybrid figures, severed heads and fantastical animals. The very least I can say is that a huge part of my life flashes before my eyes as I look at this whirlwind of collages. A monograph on Bahman Mohassess is to be published by Zamân Books in September 2019.
February 2017. Display at the Tate Modern, London (UK): Iranian Photobooks: from Revolution to War. I was honoured to present these “photobooks” published in Iran between 1979 and today, in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern. The display includes both leading independent photographers (e.g., Kaveh Golestan, Bahman Jalali, and Alfred Yaghoubzadeh) as well as state publications that use photos by the same photographers, but packaged differently to reflect political and national concerns. We find ourselves immersed in conflicting accounts of the 1979 Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, with this display offering a way to interpret them. In collaboration with my fellow curator Sarah Allen whose perspicacity I salute.
December 2016. Exhibition Au-delà de la forme (‘Beyond Form’), Richard Serra and Mehdi Moutashar, Palais du Tau, Reims (France). A meeting of two outstanding artists in an unexpected context, on the initiative of the collector Didier Moiselet who, to his credit, crossed the line between conceptual minimalism and metaphysical geometry, between abstraction and hypervision, between letters and hieroglyphs – somewhere between Baghdad and New York. Huge respect from Zamân Books (an interview with Didier Moiseletto will appear in Zamân n°8).
October 2016. A retrospective exhibition of works by Faouzi Laatiris, Catalogue déraisonné, Mohamed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat, Morocco. In the process of hanging the poster of the exhibition on the façade of the museum which, for Faouzi and me, has become our ship. Immense pride to be curator for this out of the ordinary, iconoclastic emancipated artist, spiritual son of Marcel Duchamp and Mahmoud Darwish. The exhibition is a follow-up to the first part, Volumes Fugitifs, in which Faouzi was in the company of the most outstanding of his former students from the Institut National des Beaux-Arts in Tétouan. Catalogue published by Kulte Editions and Yasmina Naji, in collaboration with Maud Houssais. Presses du Réel, 2016.
December 2016. Galerie Atelier 21, Casablanca, Morocco. In the company of artist painter Mohammed Abouelouakar who only exhibits once every 3 or 4 years, a real hermit whose paintings (here “playing cards”) revive old Sufi tales and other pagan or ecumenical, Arab, Russian or Byzantine inspired mythologies, now very largely eliminated from Moroccan culture. He is undoubtedly one of the most underrated artists in his own country, although he has the stature of the greatest – uncompromisingly impervious to fashion, totally focused on his vocation as a nomadic storyteller. God will recognize his own.
December 2016. Collections of classical art from the São Paulo Museum of Art, Brazil. A very dear art historian colleague who is staying in Brazil sent me this photo via WhatsApp. The paintings seem to be floating, released at last from the weight of the walls and architecture, in this museum built in 1968 (year of revolution) by Lina Bo Bardi. The scenography leaves many a museum trailing behind, to put it mildly.
October 2016. Café Naderi, Tehran, Iran. I have come on a pilgrimage to hang out in the Lalezar district, the mecca of the Tehran artistic bohemian set. This was the café of choice for several generations of writers and painters, such as Sadegh Hedayat in the 1920s or Bahman Mohassess in the 1960s, where they smoked and talked (their photos are up on the wall behind me). No difficulty believing I’m here, even though tea has taken the place of whisky. I don’t want to wake up.
<font style="line-height:24px"September 2016. The exhibition Traité de Paix, San Telmo Museum, San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque Country. A palpable hit, this multi-faceted exhibition curated by Pedro Romero, in which Velázquez and Marcel Broodthaers rub shoulders, and 17th century maps are hung alongside documentary photographs, and “imaginary” collections square up to national collections. Spellbinding. An unforgettable model. The catalogue in four languages (French, Spanish, Basque and English) is heroic. There is a reconstruction of the surrealist exhibition La Vérité sur les colonies in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris, 1931. The anti-colonialist mise en abyme continues into the street: as you leave the exhibition, there are banners saying “France and Spain go home”. This is the Basque Country in 2016.
September 2016. Tehran Bazaar, Iran. A dear friend sent me this photo via WhatsApp. A shower of fluorescent colours on an underwear boutique which, from a distance, could be mistaken for a fairground sideshow. Anyway, fans of “Special Envoy” and other reports from the “Land of the Mullahs ” or “Iran, land of paradox”, really get value for money.