Fall 2015The way the invitation to come to Tehran and bring a work for the exhibition Flânerie came into being turned out to be characteristic for the way I and the work was received: through a genuine interest in the actual work. The curator Ali Reza Labeshka saw a piece in a small exhibition in the ACUD project space in Berlin, and left his card with the curator, who then handed it to me. I contacted him and after many short-term changes of time and location–similarly characteristic for the Iranian culture of dealing with appointments –, I met with the curator, who revealed a multi-faceted profound interest in that particular piece: Lenghts (by and large).
My developing wish to travel to Tehran was furfilled with the invitation to come for a short residency and take part in the exhibition.
Although it is obviously very easy to have reservations about visiting a society that has a reputation of being governed by a regime that doesn’t grant its citizens the liberties we are used to in Europe, my experiences with meeting people from Iran had always been very positive, not to say inspiring.
Arriving in Tehran didn’t dissapoint these experiences. I felt very welcomed, and was again met with genuine interest in who I am and where I and my work come from. And also in the course of my stay there were many occasions where I was pleasantly surprised by the uplifting friendliness and helpfulness of good humoured locals, not hindered by the lack of a common language.
Arriving at the beautifully located KAAF after a taxi-ride that prepared me for more crazy traffic, witty taxidrivers and views on the rough mix of urban architecture amidst highways and heavy air pollution, I was impressed with the openness and hospitality of the people there and with the beauty and the sense of space and material with which the space and garden around it were set up. I was taken to the residency apartment located close in a quiet neighborhood, that was extremely spacious, with all the comfort and also all the privacy that one could wish for. In the course of my stay I became attached to the people around KAAF, a diverse group of artist, critics, musicians, scientists whose eagerness to talk about their work and my work and their willingness to answer all my questions about the conditions of living and working in Tehran was truly inspiring and refreshing in comparison to the somewhat callous artscene in Berlin. Especially once the exhibition was set up – in which my piece was allocated a honourable central position – I was overwhelmed by the response of visitors and other participating artists, who did not only ask me about my work, but were also very open in sharing their thoughts on my sculpture in the show. In contrast to the conversations I am used to at art events in Berlin, where the work actually on display tends to be discussed with aloofness, the eager and unbiased atmosphere of this art-scene in Tehran has left a profound impression on me. I learned more about my own work in one week, than I normally do in a year.
The exhibition FLÂNERIE was not only a balanced collection of works on urban hegemony, it was another opportunity to learn more about the city of Tehran. It featured works that addressed specific aspects of the impact of government on Tehran next to more abstract comments on urban life and politics. I was surprised by the fact, that in spite of trade sanctions and the restrictive regime under which artists have to make their work, a lot of them maintained enough spirit to produce work that reveals freedom of thought, a sense of humour and deep knowledge of art history.
The hospitable and generous founder of KAAF, Sadra Keyhani, the curator Ali Reza Labeshka and the highly engaged group of people contributing to the realization of the exhibition and the residency are to be credited highly for enabling this place to exist.
1965 born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
1988-1993 BA in photography, Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, NL
1998- 1999 MA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art & Design, London, UK
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany
In cooperation with KAAF Institute, Tehran. For further info visit: www.ka-af.com