The Iran participations at the 56th Venice Biennale is divided in two parts: The Great Game and Iranian Highlights.
The idea of The Great Game comes from the consideration that the geographical area of these countries is, in fact, a historically unique territory, its destiny indissolubly linked by its historical and cultural situation: around these places there took place, and still takes place, what since the XIX century has been known as ‘The Great Game’ for supremacy in Asia. A tangle of political, economic, religious, and social situations also finds an expression and interpretation in the art produced in these places, and it is this that the exhibition proposed for the Venice Biennale hopes to show through the work of some forty artists working in the region and who are particularly aware of social-political questions.
Curated by Marco Meneguzzo and by Mazdak Faiznia, a young Iranian curator from the Kurdish region, the exhibition demonstrates the centrality of this question and how it is perceived and reestablished by an international public through the language of contemporary art; it has already been expressed in major international shows, but it is still hampered by the genuine existential difficulties of those who have first-hand experience of a tangle of contradictions: a precise mirror-image of what could be the linguistic outcome of globalization. So this is not an overview of the art of these countries – which by now, at least for some of them, is well known – but is a genuine conceptual “thrust” into one of the places that is an everyday and superficially-considered protagonist of the media.
The show’s chosen theme obviously implies that these works have been chosen from among those that most meaningfully approach the problems under analysis: for this reason we have undertaken a great deal of prior research – even in loco – about the availability of works that are indispensible for the subject of the exhibition, while also privileging, however, the metaphoric aspect of the complexity of the culture and the forces in play (as a result, among the artists are those who could superficially be defined as ‘abstract’, and the ‘handwriting’ element of these cultures has also been considered as being of fundamental importance).
The artists chosen make use of all expressive means: many use video, at times as part of a video-installation, others use sculpture, often environmentally, and even painting and photography are well represented too. This means that the show needs to be carefully displayed and that the usual technological artifices will be employed for exhibiting the videos. We speculate that each artist will exhibit two works, a large one and a smaller one.
Iranian Highlights presents the work of four Iranian artists: Samira Alikhanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar, Jamshid Bayrami and Mohammed Ehsai, from different generations, genders, and expressive tendencies and instruments, who in this case are brought together by their will to display the wealth and complexity of Iranian art, which by its very nature is cosmopolitan, receptive, and accommodating as well as aware of its own cultural heritage. This is an exemplary homage – necessarily exemplary in form, as there are many, many more than these four current Iranian artists – to a culture that is perfectly integrated in contemporaneity and the ways of globalization.
- Adel Abidin, I'm Sorry, 2008. Courtesy of the artist
- Saira Wasim, Lines of Confrontation, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.