mohit.art is proud to present a selection of works from Parking Video Library (PVL), Tehran. PVL emerged from the independent platform and project space Parkingallery Projects that artist and curator Amirali Ghasemi ran from 1998 to 2014 in the garage of his parents’ house in Tehran. A new generation of artists welcomed this informal space, which led to the accumulation of a considerable number of experimental works, including new media and performance art. The formation of the Limited Access Festival in 2007, which continues today, helped significantly by collecting and showing video works and enriching the Parking Video Library. PVL consists of a broad range of moving image and multimedia works by prominent and emerging artists from Iran and elsewhere. Approximately 350 contemporary Iranian artists have shared one or several works with this archive. More than fifty screening programs have been curated with works archived in the PVL.
The following videos could be viewed from February 4 to April 15, 2022 on mohit.art.
In an attempt to expand what was formerly considered Iranian video art, Revisit — Early Encounters brings together documentaries, experimental films, and videos from a fifteen-year period. This survey of moving image attempts to shed light on the vast area at stake and how the diverse practices within it were affected by access to new technologies and socio-political events, which changed art production and video-making in Iran in just a few years. Included here are video poems, essays on cinema or the culture surrounding it, rediscovered tapes from personal archives, the documentation of rare art events, destroyed 8 mm movies, in-house video productions, and early digital films that hit the big screen through the emergence of the digital revolution.
The program explores Iranian artists’ use of digital and analog film footage (some of which goes back to the Iranian Revolution), the emergence of video cameras, and how artists and filmmakers used these devices to express, change, reflect, and revolt. The camera remains an apparatus of resistance as we view these works and witness the medium’s transformation. Some of the films have never been shown online before, while others haven’t been presented in years, subverting the grand narratives that focus only on successful professionals recognized by the market. Instead, included here is a wide circle of makers whose works propose new dimensions and a richer understanding of the medium.
Revisit — Early Encounters is curated by Amirali Ghasemi (Parking Video Library, Tehran) and is a response to the invitation by mohit.art to present a program alongside his essay “A Glance at Video as an Artistic Medium in Iran” on the development of early experimental video art from Iran.
The images in Reverse Angle are behind-the-scenes footage from a 1992 British-Australian television series The Leaving of Liverpool, but the audio is composed of excerpts from different films as well as the director’s own comments on cinema. The juxtaposition of image and audio builds a filmic essay that is a tribute to Petgar’s “favorite kind” of cinema. “My main concern in this film was the relationship between the images and the storytelling. Reverse Angle attempts to sum up the story of a human being: their ups and downs, looking for security and the pursuit of happiness, facing their fears and coping with the meaningless moments of one’s life … to somehow come up with a narrative structure and, at the same time, not clearly interpret the images but let the audience have their own interpretations. The same concerns as in most of Wim Wenders’s films of the 1970s and 1980s. The title of the film comes from Wenders’s Reverse Angle (1982).” (Maani Petgar)
Sadegh Tirafkan had his first solo exhibition of portraits at Seyhoun Gallery in Tehran in 1990. In November of the same year, he was invited to participate in Mois de la Photo held in Paris. This marked the beginning of his career outside of Iran and became the impetus for his move to New York in 1997. Here, interaction with Western artists strengthened his understanding of himself as an Iranian artist. This brought him back to Iran, where he exhibited Persepolis, the first conceptual video installation to be shown in the country, at Seyhoun Gallery in 1998.
This video was shot using a Sony VHS camcorder in 1994 and edited in 1999. Inspired by a dream the artist had, this short piece explores the intersection of love, death, memory, and nostalgia.
Dancing Fan, shot in 1999 on a Sony Video 8 camcorder, is one of Ghasemi’s first videos. The tape had been lost for years in storage and was rediscovered in 2014. This unedited recording includes the original audio captured while filming. One can hear music by Jan Garbarek being played in the background mixed with the noise of a fan and, of course, the sound of the dancing strips of paper attached to it.
Ghazel with Kaveh Golestan
Ghazel & Kaveh Golestan, Friday, July 23, 1999, Golestan Gallery, Tehran.
In the large cemetery in the south of Tehran, areas are reserved for the Martyrs of the Revolution and the War. The grounds are decorated with portraits and flags. Martyrs play a significant role here. A young artist, who works on this theme, invites me to an art gallery where she presents a performance with a war photographer. On one wall, there is a photograph, the close-up of a dead soldier. Not a living young man, as in the cemetery, but a photograph of a corpse. Two linen fabrics are hung on the opposite wall, covered with small lines. Just as if one counts days. Like me, people come in to look around. Suddenly, three people in the crowd fall down at once. A voice shouts: Back away, they need air. We back away. Then the artist tears down the fabrics off the walls and covers the bodies on the ground. They are her collaborators. As the people barely had time to figure this out, the bouncers pushed them outside. The lights are turned off. The fences of the gallery are drawn; the artist gets into a car and disappears. The people are stunned. They thought they were the performance viewers; they vaguely guessed that they were its unwitting actors. Those who continue living when others, among them, fall. (Text by Selim Nassib, 1999)
The Willow is part of a site-specific video installation first presented at the First Conceptual Art Exhibition at Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 2001. The installation “The Willow Tree uses the interplay of light and shadow cast by plants and people to create a spatiotemporal site where past and present intersect. Panels of glass reflect the video projection of an old willow tree, carrying associations of the artist’s childhood and family, and old Super 8 family movie footage onto each other. The tree spins and spirals, dizzying the viewer as it takes them back into a past that could be anyone’s, a past onto which we are asked to project our own meanings. This is literally embodied in the way the installation becomes interactive as it incorporates the viewer’s moving shadow into the moving picture, just as the viewer layers associations of individual memory onto a site that is as commonly shared as it is intimately personal.” (Maya Kóvskaya, “The Secret Life of Plants,” 2012. Excerpt from: soniamehrachawla.in)
Installation: mixed media, video projection on salt.
During her time at Central Saint Martins in London, Kolahi was inspired by the philosophy of unity in Persian architecture—the inner, the unity in multiplicity, the importance of the circle and its connotations in Sufism. Untitled depicts a girl whirling (a meditative dance in Sufism) to the sound of a Daf, a large Persian frame drum. When the video was shown at Barg Gallery, Tehran, in 2001, it was projected onto a bed of salt on the floor. The salt, a symbol of purification and durability, reflected the projection back to viewers. Immediately after the opening, management closed the show due to the perceived visibility of the woman’s body. After a failed attempt by the artist to convince the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to resume the exhibition, the gallery’s artistic director, Ms. Baradaran, reopened the show despite resistance from above. The show continued for a week, under the constant threat of being shut down.
Farid Jafari Samarghandi
This video creates abstract images through high contrast and unusual details. It illustrates the confrontation of two forces: white and black, good and evil. In fact, everything indicates a mental struggle between staying and suffering or sorrowful migration. It depicts a confused mind stuck in a single reality.
Simin Keramati made Your Face in My Eyes after the 2003 earthquake in the city of Bam in southeastern Iran. During the quake, the old city vanished and a large number of people were killed. The music is by Kiawasch Sahebnassagh, who composed it for an earthquake that ruined cities in Northern Iran about twenty years before the one that damaged Bam. Keramati used images sourced from archives of the ancient city of Bam to create the video. The work is dedicated to those who died in Bam and to other victims of deadly earthquakes all around the world.
Raha Faridi describes this experimental video as more like a self-therapy film. Partially shot using the infamous NightShot feature on her Sony video camera, the intimate piece starts in the middle of the night and follows a chain reaction of gestures and conversations that leads to a revelation at sunrise.
5:58 pm is an early experimental video by Anahita Hekmat. In it, a human encounter with a deceased bird recalls memories of loss and longing, while the image of its cold feathers, barely moving in the wind, is superimposed over images of a memorial cemetery and poppies in a green field.
Navel, at first sight, is a collection of home-video filmed anecdotes about four men and a woman who share an apartment in Tehran. Under these loosely structured fragments, a story is hidden about the social and emotional complications of these five people in particular, and about people’s desires and their inability to approach each other in general. The aging cynic Mani rents the rooms in his apartment to four people. He continuously films his life and theirs with his video camera. In an almost continually nocturnal Tehran, the actors regularly pick up Mani’s camera. The night vision green close-ups evoke a mysterious, isolated mood. Other scenes are filmed in grainy sepia. The vicissitudes filmed are fictional, but are close to the real life of the actors: they created the characters based on their own experiences and characteristics. (Excerpt from: iffr.com)
Under the pretext of reviewing footage of the 1979 Iranian Revolution taken by non-professionals with Super 8 cameras, the documentary Some Narratives follows the idea that informal images of historical events taken by ordinary citizens are fundamentally different from the images taken by the official media. Consequently, the narratives produced by these amateur images are also very different from the official narratives presented by the government, which are usually based on a select portion of press footage. Non-professional pictures taken by the public produce informal narratives which offer alternative approaches to reading history. Some Narratives is a work composed of candid images created by people who only wanted to directly record the events around them.
VHS Diaries is a tale of the adventurous world of illegal videotapes in post-revolution Iran. Saghari goes through her diaries, finding notes and memorabilia from the years when video was banned in Iran. She takes a personal approach, using her own archive from the era alongside audio interviews with film historians, film buffs, and those involved in the black market.
Why VHS? Why now? As technology rapidly changes and a new generation enters the scene, the videotape has become an object of the ancient past. There is a sense of urgency to recounting the cultural life that emerged around illegal videotapes in Iran, as this is a history in danger of being forgotten or ignored. The eighties saw the emergence of a cultural life that was not approved by officials, or acknowledged; it was considered illicit, outside of the law, and decadent.
“Objects that I can neither dispose of nor use, those that have worn out over time and lost their function, made sense to me during quarantine. I found 8 mm film footage in my archive, which I had made thirty-one years ago. The original film was burned by the manager of my city’s youth cinema because, at the time, it did not fit in with the ideology of the ruling power. Three decades later, I redefined the film using the remaining original footage in my archive. There were no complete scenes, as they had been used in the original edit. Therefore, the movie became an incomplete decoupage as a flame against oblivion.” (Minoo Iranpour)