A Video art and performance programming of women artists of Iranian origin
As a part of the festival “Oodaaq“, 3 and 4 of July, 2021, at Le lieu gallery, Rennes in France.
Many Thanks to Simon Guiochet and the whole team of l’oeil d’Oodaaq
The feeling of loneliness, of endlessly turning in on ourselves, of being lost in a labyrinth, are perceptions that have embraced us all since the pandemic appeared in 2020. Separated from each other, we miss sharing and communicating our feelings. Fourteen women artists of Iranian origin, now immigrated or exiled, all brought together by the invisible links that bring them together: Desire for freedom and to overcome the socio-political constraints. In their works they illustrate the fight against this endless repetition of anguish and suffering of isolation, leaving us a place of reflection and empathy with the other in order not to forget the injustices that persist.
We are witness the desire for freedom in Mozhgan Erfani’s Inextricable and Haleh Jamali’s Departure, the overcoming of the natural limits of our bodies in Every Little Kiss of the Sisters, Khaleghi and in Mania Akbari’s video Lubion, the struggle against socio-political oppression such as borders in Azadeh Nilchiani’s Four Episodes of Immigrated Anisopteron, exile in Mandana Moghaddam’s Silence, overcoming loneliness in Sevil Amini’s Self-Portrait and Shaghayegh Cyrous’s Cycle, and finally the attempt to break the circle of repetition of anxieties in Parya Vatankhah’s videos Circle and Distance.
Curator : Parya Vatankhah, an artist and curator of Iranian origin, has chosen works only by Iranian women artists because of the particularly difficult situation of women in Iran and especially women artists, to give them the opportunity to be seen and heard.
Artists : Sevil Amini, Mania Akbari, Sholeh Asgary, Mozhgan Erfani, Shaghayegh Cyrous, Haleh Jamali, Baharak & Behnaz Khaleghi, Mandana Moghadam, Azadeh Nilchiani, Sara Niroobakhsh, Mehregan Pezeshki, Rojin Shafiei, Parya Vatankhah,
Sevil Amini, Self-Portrait, video, color, sound, 4’5’’, 2021,
This work evokes suspense of the time in solitude and the distance from our loved ones. Self-portrait can refer to the pandemic lockdown, to exile and to any form of isolation in contemporary societies. The sound of the heartbeat and the repetition of the week days’ names give the impression of difficulties in the passage of time when we are separated from the rest of the world. Walking, dreaming and breathing in loneliness becomes like a journey through melancholy and anguish by failing into the rhythm of emptiness and fragile reality.
Born in Tehran in 1977, Sevil Amini is an Iranian-Italian multidisciplinary artist who lived and worked for over a decade in Milan before moving to Hamburg, Germany in 2017.
Mania Akbari, Lubion, video, color, sound, 5’30”, 2019,
The Lubion video plunges into a hallucinating landscape, covering a shifting psychological and physical terrain carried by the powerful effects of the eponymous IVF hormone treatment undertaken by Mania. As the drug is administered by injection, reality blends with a chimerical techno-natural vision of the inner and outer worlds. These images offer a different view of the profound psychological changes experienced in parallel with the physical changes of pregnancy. In Akbari’s case, these changes have been amplified by the cocktail of hormonal IVF treatments, hence the name. In each of these treatments, we see the body merging with and being co-opted by later forces and landscapes, whether it is the branched uterus-like structure of a concrete-filled ant nest or the tuberous and tumorous growths of potato roots. These subterranean amalgams seem to present the experience of fetal growth not as something benign, but rather in the context of more disturbing growths that had previously afflicted the same body.
Born in Tehran in 1974, Mania Akbari is an internationally known actress, filmmaker and artist. Exiled from Iran, she now lives and works in London.
Sholeh Asgary, 270 (two hundred and seventy),
Single channel video and sound composition by Sholeh Asgary, Audio mixing + mastering, Thomas Dimuzio, Time: 5’ excerpt of 30’2’’ video, 2020
270 is a sound and video performance which refers to the s-type asteroid named after the ancient goddess of water, Anahita. To create this video, Asgary trained herself to memorize and perform her own song and music in reverse for the camera, without any visible instruments or microphone. Once complete, the recorded video is flipped around (so that reverse actions are now in forward motion), and the audio track is also in forward. This process and performance creates a closed loop with herself, a conversation that seems to be of another time and space, or, an illusory likeness of the self. There is a cyclical aspect that places the person almost outside of herself. One can believe that she meets her own soul without a physical body, in this process of going back and forth in the work.
Sholeh Asgary is an Iranian-born interdisciplinary and sound artist who lives and works in the United States since many years.
Mozhgan Erfani, Inextricable, video installation on the floor, color, sound, Persian language, 4’39”, 2018
In this work, the Iranian artist addresses the suffering of women who are subject to the tenebrous religious rules that limit their movements and the inventiveness of their life course, since we live in Middle Eastern societies, including Iran. She herself left Iran to settle permanently in France because she was constantly arrested by the police of religion (Pasdaran) because she did not wear the veil according to the standards of the Islamic regime. The video Inextricable begins with a totally black frame and then lets us discover the invocation of a group of five women who write and whisper the word Khafaghan (stifling). Microcosm, of a multi-universe pentagram, which according to Pythagoras symbolises harmony, beauty and health, in total opposition to the destructive anger of these five women veiled and dressed in black, who can symbolise death, grief and darkness, as well as their violent repetitive gestures.
Mozhgan Erfani, (born in 1973) is a French visual artist with Iranian origins, who lives and works in Paris for more than twenty years.
Shaghayegh Cyrous, The Cycle, video, color, sound, 4’33”, 2020
The Cycle is a video highlighting the melancholy inherent in the life course of today’s humans. It depicts how history, our individual and collective lives turn into a cycle of destruction and rebirth. This video is set in a dream state in the heart of a garden of almond trees embodying the resurrection and the path of life. It shows a woman’s intimate relationship within the universe, its challenges, its vicissitudes and the moment when she acquires the strength to rise and create change.
Shaghayegh Cyrous is an Iranian-American multimedia artist, curator and lecturer. Exiled, she now lives and works in the United States.
Haleh Jamali, Departure, video, color, sound, HD, 5’50”,2011
Collaboration between Haleh Jamali and Monica De Ioanni,
The figure, placed on a white background and wrapped in fabric to create different forms, sometimes very abstract, symbolizes the loneliness of this woman in an empty place. The artist has always been fascinated by the loss of identity in the forms created by the veil and the masked body of veiled women. Here Jamali uses the black veil as a symbolic means to show the struggles and frustration of women whose identity has been concealed.
Haleh Jamali is a multimedia artist based in Glasgow. She was born and raised in Iran before moving to the UK in 2005.
Behnaz and Baharak Khaleghi, Every Little Kiss, video, color, sound, 1’3”, 2020
Humans are about 50% microbial, which means that about half of the cells that make up a person are not theirs at all. About 80 million microbes are exchanged on average per kiss, and after a six-month follow-up, the microbiomes in the human intestine appear to be moderately but regularly modified. “Every little kiss” represents the banality of a small bed for two, a place where bodies are constantly mixing and mingling, questions the idea of a singular self and body, from the point of view of the human microbiome, by studying the anxieties and fears associated with the disruption of body boundaries, the disruption of order and law, especially in the face of intimacy and love.
Behnaz and Baharak Khaleghi are multimedia artists from Iran. Exiled, they currently live in the United States.
Mandana Moghaddam, The Silence, video, color, sound, 5’59” 2017
The feeling of loneliness, of being a stranger, a loner and an exile in the midst of a large number of people even in one’s own country is the main theme of this video. A woman with dark and worried eyes, swims in a pool under the heavy gaze of many people of different ethnicities, ages and colors. Underwater, the incessant and disturbing murmur of people talking is omnipresent. Each time she goes up to the surface, she finds herself under observation by these strange people with icy faces in a total silence.
Mandana Moghaddam is an Iranian-Swedish visual artist, born in Tehran in 1962. Exiled, she currently lives and works in Sweden.
Azadeh Nilchiani, Four episodes of immigrant anisoptera, Video, color, sound, 3’15”, 2010-2011,
Being far from one’s country, its language, its climate, its nature, its sounds and its inhabitants can have consequences sometimes far from what one imagines. It is a process of internal and external adaptation, it is a constant search. It can make us plunge deep inside ourselves in search of the traces of the country we are far from. This journey and this displacement that happens parallel inside and outside of oneself, goes through four elements: earth, air, water and fire, which symbolize the materials that make up the world.
“…I stayed by the reed bed, The wind was blowing, Being all ears, Who spoke to me? ». Excerpt from “Dar Golestaneh” Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980)
Azadeh Nilchiani, is a visual and sound artist, born in Tehran in 1979, living and working in Paris.
Sara Niroubakhsh, In the name of pain and hope, 2018Video performance, color, sound, 4’9”, 2018,
In the name of grief and hope represents a traditional ritual practice called Latmiya. This tradition is a local lamentation or eulogy to express sadness through poetry and the ritual act of slapping one’s shoulders with arms in a cross, practiced in southern Iran. For the artist, mourning is a secular and spiritual emotion. If applause is a sign of joy, this ritual is a sign of sadness. The performance of these painful and intense acts strengthens social bonds. Pain and sadness are as real as love and hope. For her, who lost the people she loved most during the Iran-Iraq war, mourning is not an event; it is a state of mind, always present, always coming, always growing, like the shadows that move across an aging face.
Sara Niroobakhsh is an Iranian-born multidisciplinary artist who has been living and working in Toronto, Canada for several years.
Mehregan Pezeshki, Hindrance, 2019, Video performance, color, sound, 5’00”
Our journey is a combination of trials. This performance raises the question of the constant construction and reconstruction of our life even after a trauma. In this difficult performance, the artist pushes the bodily limits by playing provocatively on socio-cultural codes. By using black ink to symbolize oil, it is her native country Iran and its situation that we see in filigree. If this environment completely destroys the life, the personality of the woman with torn clothes, the vision of nudity, and shaved hair, the artist makes the choice to show the performance in reverse from the observation of this final degradation to the initial situation, like a flashback or a dreamed reconstruction bringing us back to an ideal and immaculate situation.
Mehregan Pezeshki is an exiled Iranian-American multidisciplinary artist based in the United States.
Rojin Shafiei, The Toaster I used to Live in, Video, stereo sound, color, Persian language, 6’55”, 2016
This video is about 4 girls living in Iran; same age but different traditional and religious backgrounds. They express their opinions about having sex with their own beliefs.During one of my trips to Iran, I found the main subject that girls are talking about is the sex and relationships. I realized that there are so many contrasts and beliefs about the sex before marriage. Although it is illegal in Iran, I asked them some questions about this subject and let them speak in front of the camera.
Rojin Shafiei (born 1993) is an Iranian multidisciplinary visual artist who lives and works in Montreal.