28 September – 6 November 2009
Tehran is a city of contradictions. Its swollen population of fourteen million and upwards contains the religious, the irreligious and the simply indifferent. Like 75 percent of the country’s population, the Iranian artists, photographers, documentary filmmakers and graphic novelist in Transit Tehran: Art and Documentary from Iran represent a younger generation with strong emotional and social attachments to their culture and religion. They insist they are apolitical, although the very fact that they do not subscribe to the ‘official’ approach to arts and culture in the Islamic Republic can make their lives difficult in their country. The challenge is how to avoid self-censorship while avoiding government censors at the same time. They do not always win the battle.
Taken from the visually-led anthology Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations, edited by Malu Halasa and Maziar Bahari (published by Garnet Publishing and the Prince Claus Fund Library earlier this year) artists Sadegh Tirafkan and Khosrow Hassanzadeh; photographers Newsha Tavakolian, Abbas Kowsari, Javad Montazeri, Majid Saeedi, Kian Amani, Omid Salehi, Peyman Hooshmandzadeh, Kaveh Golestan, graphic novelist Parsua Bashi and veteran reporter and editor Masoud Behnoud bring the city to life through art, painting, illustration, portraiture, photojournalism, history and memoir. The exhibition portrays a city in transition – from its transsexuals and elite force of women police cadets to tolerant clerics and demonstrations by estesh-haddion (martyrdom seekers). This clash between modern and traditional values dominates the daily lives of artists and intellectuals in Tehran.
As an anonymous contributor to the book explained, “Working in Iran is like walking on a tightrope. You always have to be careful…especially if you are critical of something in the country. Artists and intellectuals may never be incarcerated but they can always expect unfriendly calls at midnight to be interrogated or appear in court. Authoritarian regimes like insecurity. The real threat is not as important as the perceived one.”
After the disputed presidential elections, the threat became real. Several of the photographers included in the exhibition were attacked or jailed. The exhibition is dedicated to the book’s coeditor and noted documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek correspondent who, reporting from Iran for over a decade, was arrested on 21 June 2009 and is still being held in solitary confinement in Evin prison without access to a lawyer.
Transit Tehran: Art and Documentary from Iran and its accompanying documentary film evenings and talks (see separate listings) provide a timely glimpse into a country which, while always in the news, keeps its secrets well guarded.
The London School of Economics and Political Science
Atrium Gallery, Old Building, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE
Exhibition: Admission free, Atrium Gallery, Old Building, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
Opening times: Monday- Friday 10am – 8 pm
Transit Tehran Events: Admission free and open to all, with no ticket
required. However, entry is on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information please visit: http://www.lse.ac.uk/arts email: arts@LSE.ac.uk or call 0207955 6043
Map & Direction:
The exhibition’s curator Malu Halasa, t 0207 839 7745,
Transit Tehran was made possible by Iran Heritage Foundation, LSE Arts, Prince Claus Fund Library, Metro Imaging, Parallax Media, BBC World Service Trust and Harvard International PLC.