1 Art After the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979

INTRODUCTION

Torture, public murder, refugees, exile, political nightmares, and revolution. These are all things included in the history of Iran, a Middle Eastern country that had been in turmoil for centuries. Art has been born through their struggles, and in this chapter there will be information on what caused and ended the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 and how it affected artist’s work in Iran after the end of the revolution.

In Iran, there was help to form a monarchy established from the U.K. with Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1921 after the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11. Eventually, Britain made an oil company in the land of Iran which caused an uproar from people of all classes in Iran. Reza Shah (A Shah is the name of the monarch position in Iran) did not like this, which caused the U.K. to remove him from his place as monarch and put his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in place of him who in turn did whatever Britain told him. In 1953, Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddeq, ousted the son Mohammad Reza from his position of monarch and nationalized the oil that was being taken from them by Britain. But, the Shah position was restored to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi by the U.K. and with the help of the United State’s C.I.A.

In the 1970s, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the current Shah, had already launched the White Revolution which caused economic growth but the growth of the economy was not spread evenly throughout the country which caused disrupt. Socio-political repression from the Shah’s control was increasing, and no protests were accepted and political abilities of the public were taken away, and those who still performed political protest were censored, heavily surveilled, and even tortured.

The Shah began to get sick from cancer and growing extremely paranoid in 1978 from believing and knowing that the protests were a national conspiracy against him. The government ended up killing a lot of the protesters and those who tried to escape the country, which started the Iranian Revolution. The violence caused more protests, and more deaths brought on by the government regime. Later in the year of 1978, government and oil workers went on strike, and a scholar named Khomeini (who was banned from Iran because of the current Shah due to his strong following of protesters) came back to Iran and demanded the Shah to leave his position. In 1979, the Shah and his family fled Iran which ended the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79, and the end of the monarchical politics in Iran. (Afary, Janet, Iranian Revolution.[1])

In regards to artwork, a lot of Iranians were inspired to create art: “The art coming out of Iran from the 1960s to the 1980s is one of transition. Its heterogeneity reflects the range of societal conditions at the time: political discontent coupled with patriotism; secularism contrasted to religious fervor; the increasing disparity between rich and poor” (Rooney, Ekhtiar, Years Leading to the Iranian Revolution 1960-79[2]). One of the most effective ways of creating art during the revolution was photography, even though, or possibly even because, photography and video were officially censored during the revolution (Rooney, Ekhtiar, Years Leading to the Iranian Revolution 1960-79[3]). In the art world after the Revolution, a lot of the art history began to relate to exile, the idea of borders, and reflection of the past and on their society as well. Because of this particularly bloody revolution, artists who had been exiled or chose to leave the country would return and learn that home was no longer a place, and more so a feeling. This can be seen through Iranian artist’s work and felt through feelings of homelessness, exile, and through their nomadic lifestyles.


ARTISTS

Kaveh Golestan

Kaveh Golestan was alive from 1950-2003 and he documented the changing society of Iran through photography. He also recorded the lives of the people who lived on the edge of society, such as prostitutes, and their sufferings, “Golestan was part of a small group of intellectuals and artists keenly aware of the disparities between the social strata in Iran – of the gap between the reality of life for many Iranians, and the image of Iran the Shah was trying so assiduously to present to the world” (Bekhrad, Joobin, No One Here Gets Out Alive[4]). Since Golestan was born and raised in Tehran with his family, he was inspired by the surroundings and lifestyle of Iranians, along with his father who outwardly spoke against the Shah during the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. After bearing witness to the revolution and taking artistic photographs of it, more of his photography work continued to follow war-like situations. Golestan was the first person to take pictures from the aftermath of the Halabja Chemical attack, which was a massacre in 1988 that killed Kurdish people in Iraq. Sadly, in 2003, he went back to Iraq to work for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and died at the age of 52 by stepping on a landmine. (Kaveh Golestan, Wikipedia[5]) Below is one of Golestan’s photos from the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 which shows the passion of the people resisting the Shah rule. For more of Kaveh Golestan’s work, please visit http://www.kavehgolestan.org/#/page/1.

Kaveh Golestan, Untitled (Revolution Series, 1978-79)

Modern Iranian Facts [6]

 

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat, a well-known contemporary artist originally from Iran, has lived outside of Iran ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. She is best known for her photography and videography which comments predominantly on exile, identity, and Iranian society, but she had stopped making art when she escaped Iran, and she only started creating again when she went back to visit in the early 1990’s. Neshat comments on femininity versus masculinity in her video Turbulent created in 1998. In this video she compares how men are treated in Iran versus women in a dichotomous display (dichotomy is two starkly contrasted things) on a 2-channel movie screen. Her piece was extremely successful, but mostly because it had layers to it and it took a deep understanding for the audience to truly interpret what was being explained in her video piece. As quoted from Shirin Neshat herself, “Magical realism allows an artist like myself to inject layers of meaning without being obvious. In American culture, where there is freedom of expression, this approach may seem forced, unnecessary and misunderstood. But this system of communication has become very Iranian.” Another art piece of Shirin Neshat’s that explains Iranian culture and how their society works is Fervor which was created in 2000. This is another videography piece, and was created “to expose and challenge the role of gender in the creation of power structures and social values” (Cleveland Museum of Art. Fervor[7]) by showing Iranian women and men separated by a wall while doing their Friday Prayers, a common yet strange binary tradition of Islam in Iran. Below there are two stills taken from Shirin Neshat’s videos that are an example of what was talked about previously. For more of Shirin Neshat’s work, please visit https://gladstonegallery.com/artist/shirin-neshat#&panel1-1.

Shirin Neshat, Fervor, 2000
Still from Shirin Neshat’s Turbulent, 1998

 

WORKS CITED

Afary, Janet. “Iranian Revolution.” Encyclopædia Britannica. March 28, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/event/Iranian-Revolution-of-1978-1979.

 

Bekhrad, Joobin. “No One Here Gets Out Alive: Kaveh Golestan’s ‘Prostitutes’ Series.” The White Review. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/no-one-gets-alive-kaveh-golestans-prostitutes-series/.

 

“Culture of Iran.” Wikipedia. April 30, 2019. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Iran.

 

Denson, G. Roger, and G. Roger Denson. “Shirin Neshat: Artist of the Decade.” HuffPost. December 07, 2017. Accessed April 15, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sherin-neshat-artist-of-t_b_802050.

 

Esfandiari, Sahar. “10 Contemporary and Modern Iranian Artists You Should Know.” Culture Trip. November 24, 2017. Accessed April 02, 2019. https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/iran/articles/10-contemporary-and-modern-iranian-artists-you-should-know/.

 

“Fervor.” Cleveland Museum of Art. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/2016.59.

 

“Kaveh Golestan.” Wikipedia. March 14, 2019. Accessed April 15, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaveh_Golestan.

 

Neshat, Shirin. “Untitled Turbulent Series Diptych by ShirinNeshat.” Untitled Turbulent Series Diptych by Shirin Neshat on Artnet. January 01, 1998. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.artnet.com/artists/shirin-neshat/untitled-turbulent-series-diptych-gGnaoI6e3bXMTLkPTfa0Cw2.

 

Rooney, Julia, and Maryam Ekhtiar. “Years Leading to the Iranian Revolution, 1960–79.” Metmuseum.org. May 2016. Accessed April 02, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/irnv/hd_irnv.htm.

 

“THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF.” The Photography of Kaveh Golestan. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.kavehgolestan.org/#/page/1.


  1. Afary, Janet. "Iranian Revolution." Encyclopædia Britannica. March 28, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/event/Iranian-Revolution-of-1978-1979
  2. Rooney, Julia, and Maryam Ekhtiar. "Years Leading to the Iranian Revolution, 1960–79." Metmuseum.org. May 2016. Accessed April 02, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/irnv/hd_irnv.htm.
  3. Rooney, Julia, and Maryam Ekhtiar. "Years Leading to the Iranian Revolution, 1960–79." Metmuseum.org. May 2016. Accessed April 02, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/irnv/hd_irnv.htm.
  4. Bekhrad, Joobin. "No One Here Gets Out Alive: Kaveh Golestan's 'Prostitutes' Series." The White Review. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/no-one-gets-alive-kaveh-golestans-prostitutes-series/.
  5. "Kaveh Golestan." Wikipedia. March 14, 2019. Accessed April 15, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaveh_Golestan.
  6. "Culture of Iran." Wikipedia. April 30, 2019. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Iran
  7. "Fervor." Cleveland Museum of Art. Accessed April 15, 2019. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/2016.59.

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