MOCA Tehran

“Manifestation of Contemporary Art in Iran,” Museum Of Contemporary Art Tehran, Iran, Fall of 2007,

Curated by Marjan K. Vayghan

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Bill Viola's "Reflecting Pool," after-hours. University students would form lines around the museum with hopes of getting into the daily museum tours of the "prohibited" video art. Due to nudity, we weren't allowed to showcase Bill Viola's "Reflecting Pool," for everyone. I enjoyed staying after museum hours and presenting the audience members with private screenings! I recall one night cringing as I walked into gallery nine, where Bill Viola's "Reflecting Pool," was being played in a football sized gallery, in pitch black darkness. I saw the outline of, what I assumed were clumps of young couples. I made my self known and let everyone know I was going to turn on the lights. A part of me was worried about what I was going to see them doing? When the lights came on and everyone started hiding things into and under their clothing, I realized gallery nine had become an unofficial "prohibited books exchange." I was so touched. Blown away, I tried to stay after hours as many nights as possible throughout the duration of the exhibition and let as many people sneak in as possible. Who knew nudity in the Islamic Republic would provoke a lovely and geeky book club of illegal literature!?!?!

Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool,” after-hours. University students would form lines around the museum with hopes of getting into the daily museum tours of the “prohibited” video art. Due to nudity, we weren’t allowed to showcase Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool,” for everyone. I enjoyed staying after museum hours and presenting the audience members with private screenings! I recall one night cringing as I walked into gallery nine, where Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool,” was being played in a football sized gallery, in pitch black darkness. I saw the outline of, what I assumed were clumps of young couples. I made my self known and let everyone know I was going to turn on the lights. A part of me was worried about what I was going to see them doing? When the lights came on and everyone started hiding things into and under their clothing, I realized gallery nine had become an unofficial “prohibited books exchange.” I was so touched. Blown away, I tried to stay after hours as many nights as possible throughout the duration of the exhibition and let as many people sneak in as possible. Who knew nudity in the Islamic Republic would provoke a lovely and geeky book club of illegal literature!?!?!

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A few days prior to the opening reception we had a series of private tours for ambassadors, educators and interested parties. I was honored to act as an english speaking tour guide and geek out over all the curatorial details of the exhibition. Which I had been dreaming about for over a few years.

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Artist and founder of “River Art,” Ahmad Nadalian, during an official interview for the Islamic Republic’s highly censored Television Stations! Our Feminist Exhibition was broadcasted on stations that rarely cover anything other than soccer games, propaganda and celeriac’s speeches. Yeah, the revolution was broadcasted, with a healthy dose of feminism to boot.

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I loved watching soldiers from all over Iran who were stationed in Tehran, come to the museum during their breaks to hear “Stories of Work and Survival” by 13 different groups of women, organized by Suzanne Lacy. I specially loved repeat trips where they would inform me which installations they had heard and ask me for a map of the one’s they hadn’t found yet. I loved taking them down to the basement and sharing with them the 14th secret “Stories of Work and Survival,” that we didn’t have permission to share with the public. I also made extra CDs and DVDs for really interested people to talk home, along with extra copies of the farsi translations of “Stories of Work and Survival.”

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Who said Iranians hate Americans? There was so much Eagle love and Building Bridges going down at MOCA Tehran it was ridiculous. This installation was titled “Peace.” We lit candles for peace often, under a beautiful triadic, that this eagle was comprised of.

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Jerri Allyn’s “Marching Waitresses,” installation, literally inspired one of the largest One Million Signature protests on the grounds of Park e Laleh, surrounding MOCA! This was another installation that everyone got to take something home from: Feminist literatures, worker’s rights pamphlets and DVDs. My favorite was finding extra materials left by the audience members on this epic installation turned alter, which I would make copies of and spread. This room need up being full of people all of the time and a place of sharing!

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Men spoke, other men documented. Women stood behind.

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My mother and I were presented with our own little corner next to the flowers and where the large crowd of men wouldn’t accidentally have to be photographed with us. I was warned not to smile so much. Not smiling, was the most difficult part. The director of the museum gave this big speech of how “proud of himself, he was for bringing Bill Viola’s work to MOCA Tehran.” He went on to express future plans of a two man Solo Exhibition for Him Self and Bill Viola. Moments later the curtains opened. All the dignitaries walked into the football stadium sized room where Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool” was playing. On queue, they walked in as Bill Viola’s naked, dripping wet behind was coming out of the “Reflecting Pool.” Mind you I had showed everyone the video ahead of time several times. Yet when I spoke, everyone looked at the floor. No one would shake my hand, look me in the eye or hear anything I was trying to say. Meanwhile they gladly took full credit for everything I had planed and curated for three years straight. Prior to even looking at what they were taking credit for. I had the best night. I got arrested later during the duration of the exhibition, but I still had the best Summer of my life.

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My favorite part was giving tours to as many people as possible, anyone that was interested in hearing the geeky dorky curatorial details was my best friend. I walked MOCA Tehran in my heals countless times a day and it felt like I was flying the whole time. Every single work on those wall, felt like family. I was obsessed with their history, creator, conceptual significance and most interesting was: American Artist had one bio and one statement. Where as our Iranian Artists had one bio/ statement they wanted shared with the students and my self and a completely different text for clergy and officials. I ended up digging to the truth of the work sharing that with people and just avoiding the people I was suppose to lie to all together. I know my limitations and I can’t lie.

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A few days prior to the opening reception we had a series of private tours for ambassadors, educators and interested parties. I was honored to act as an english speaking tour guide and geek out over all the curatorial details of the exhibition. Which I had been dreaming about for over a few years.

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Abbas Kiarostami’s work spoke to everyone! From the women in full hijab to the young couples on “illegal” dates giggling through the galleries. I also enjoyed watching him work in the middle of the night, drawing tons of water throughout the galleries. At fist he wanted to do a huge rug performance later he made a gorgeous installation comprised of seized outfits.

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The artists were so sweet, I kept having to run down to the basement. Where the people uncharge were discussing “whose head should roll” for “Manifestation of Contemporary Arts in Iran.” In order to place all the gifts, letters and flowers I was receiving from the artists I had worked with all Summer in my little curatorial cubby. It was wonderful, to the people in charge I was always “a nothing ameba” that no-one would look at, shake hands or listen to, and to the ego free artists that I got to choose and showcase, I was a friend and a comrade in the trenches. I’m also grateful for my supporters and protectors throughout the experience. My mom was amazing she even knew, when I was being strong armed into giving up my computer as a bribe. It was as if the person “in charge” who ditched us right prior to the exhibition and flew to France thought, the most brilliant thing in the world was the Apple computer I was organizing everything on so he took it two weeks prior to the opening. Said he would see me to discuss the show in two days, and the next day I found out he took the computer, put his brother’s work and his own work in the exhibition and left for France. I learned SO much during the Summer and Fall of 2007. Including the fact that if I continue to be my happy honest self there is nothing too shady that could take me down. To be fair I thought the Apple computer everything was organized on and that I was translating everything on was the brain behind the operation too, till it was taken away, and the world didn’t fall apart. My uncle did start following me around everyday I left the house after that, so my lunch money wouldn’t be taken anymore. lol. I’m so lucky, loved, honored and humbled by my support group. They rock!! I’m looking at the unwrapped gift/ Artwork, I was holding in this pic as I’m typing these words :”)

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When I first came face to face with the vastness of MOCA Tehran’s over nine large football field sized galleries, all the multiple hidden and visible exhibition spaces, nooks and crannies, I was a little intimidated. I didn’t think we could fill the space, with the works of only 67 artists. Soon, even all the hallways were full of Art!!! Shortly after the art, the people started coming in droves day after day. The Summer and Fall of 2007 was the most incredible time of my life.

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After the exhibition we donated the pillows inside the cases that were handmade in Iran from the table covers at MOCA LA’s WACK exhibition of Suzanne Lacy’s “Stories of Work and Survival,” to young couples getting married in Iran as well as nursing homes and to those in need of pillows. Six trucks full of Pillows!

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One of Suzanne Lacy’s prohibited video art monitors. People kept turning them off and I kept running over and turning them back on :”D

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“Manifestation of Contemporary Art in Iran,” Museum Of Contemporary Art Tehran, Iran, Fall of 2007.

Masami Teraoka Report:

November 10, 2007

“Manifestations of Contemporary Art in Iran”

First of a Series of Exhibitions Brought to you by Building Bridges

September 24 – Fall, 2007

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Curated by Marjan K. Vayghan

I am in a group show at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art right now. Marjan Vayghan conceived this show six years ago and called it Building Bridges originally although the title of the show was changed later on. Vayghan’s primary intention was to build a dialogue between the states and Iran. She hoped to paint a different, a positive picture in and about Iran- her home country- going beyond it’s label of Axis of Evil. She wanted to build a cultural bridge between the two countries in order to promote peace.

This international show includes Abbas Kiarostami, Susan Lacy, Farideh Lashaee, Ahmad Nadalian and Bill Viola among other US and Iranian artists. I’m sending you a brief note by Vayghan that I thought you would be interested in, documenting how people there are responding to my work. She installed the show and attended the opening, but is back in Los Angeles now. I could only show my earlier works, no nudity or erotic works. She made high quality reproductions which were mounted and framed in Iran due to US restrictions on how much you can bring into that country.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran, September 2007

Excerpt from Marjan Vaghan’s note:

“Gallery 4 where your works were displayed was in a constant state of flux, with the audience pouring in in large waves. Moving furtively throughout the gallery, taking pictures with their cell phones (all sneaky like). Filling the Gallery with discussions about your work and the clear perspective your work had brought to Iran, a perspective that needed no translation. Your work had the ability to cross over so many cultural borders. It was so refreshing to have such amazing work at the museum.”

– m.v.

If you are interested in learning more about the Building Bridges or Manifestations of Contemporary Art in Iran show, please feel free to contact Marjan Vayghan. Thanks.

Marjan K. Vayghan

Building Bridges/Executive Curator

“Manifestations of Contemporary Art in Iran”

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Curated by Marjan K. Vayghan

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I spent so many days, weeks and months making and stuffing pillows! Guys would find hand trucks from all over the museum for me to fill up with pillows to take to all the corners of the museum, far and wide for the over 13 installations of “Stories of Work and Survival.”

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Guess who felt like a bad ass ninja, for bringing a back up apple laptop with her to Iran? Oh yeah! Granted I didn't know I was gonna get jacked for the white one as a bribe "sheereenie" for doing my job. Yet I was so happy to have back up external brain with me, when I found out the guy who took the white one was on his way to France and not coming back. I just kept it moving by continuing to stuff pillows and translate "Stories of Work and Survival."

Guess who felt like a bad ass ninja, for bringing a back up apple laptop with her to Iran? Oh yeah! Granted I didn’t know I was gonna get jacked for the white one as a bribe “sheereenie” for doing my job. Yet I was so happy to have back up external brain with me, when I found out the guy who took the white one was on his way to France and not coming back. I just kept it moving by continuing to stuff pillows and translate “Stories of Work and Survival.”

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