TACTILE CULTURES

IRAN 
Teresa Crespí 
A TRAVEL DIARY THROUGH IMAGES AND THOUGHTS APRIL 2019

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ON ‘STILLNESS’

“On our first day in Tehran, we decided to go to the bazaar. Tehran’s bazaar is known for being quite chaotic—we learnt this after—and is not as addressed to tourists as the ones in smaller cities. I have never experienced any- thing similar before—it felt like we were being driven by the current of a river—incapable of controlling the speed, or which path to take, even incapable of stopping because we’d risk getting lost. We said to each other: we are here now, and the only way out is to make it to the other side, so let’s just go along with the flow of this river. Is it possible to describe an experience as ‘overwhelming’ without the negative connotation this word usually carries? I felt thousands of eyes on me, on us. One of the things that struck me the most about the people from Iran were their eyes— their deep, beautiful, magnetic gaze. I can’t take that look out of my mind. It was as if we were in an infinite labyrinth filled with infinite objects, smells, noises, colours, eyes. Eyes, eyes, eyes. Everyone was looking at us, and despite the fact that everything happened so fast and that everyone was running in differ- ent directions, I could still feel the weight of their gaze for a few seconds each time. I think we spent hours in there. However, amongst all the chaos, there was also a sense of

quietness. I had that revelation during that stroll across the bazaar, and later on came to the conclusion that this must be something inherent to Iran. Everywhere we went to, there was always stillness within an apparent mess— was it because of the way they look at things, at strangers, at life? I was finally able to stop for a second and capture that sensation.”

ON ‘TRAVELLING’

“We mostly travelled by bus—it was unarguably the easiest and most common (apart from cheapest) means of transport, and it also allowed for complete spontaneity. We were planning our next steps on the go, so we appreciated not needing to worry so much about tickets and schedules. We just adapted to the environment—everyone seemed to always be on their way somewhere, but never in a rush. Buses were normally very clean, comfortable and quiet, so it was just the perfect balance between conveni- ence and pleasure.

No one really likes travelling by bus here.

Some of the most striking and otherworldly landscapes I saw on this trip were from a bus. Those journeys were also a moment of meditation and reflection, even ‘assimilation’ of everything we had seen and experienced since the last ride. We didn’t speak much on these trips.

I recall this particular moment on the bus from Yazd to Shiraz, our last destination before returning to Tehran; as I was getting settled for the journey, I randomly came across this poem by the Persian poet Hafiz, which spoke directly to my heart:

I wish I could show you
when you are alone or in darkness
the astonishing light of your own being.

A couple of minutes after that, I realised that I had lost the pouch where I kept my film rolls. Luckily, I lost all of them except for one. I still dream of the idea that someone found them and developed them, allowing my eyes to be somewhere in Iran, hopefully even taking me places I’ve never been—or only been in dreams. I felt it was a sign that I’d come back.”

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ON ‘CLOSENESS’

“Iran is an isolated country. At first, I remember it made me sad to realise how such extraordinary people could feel so far away from ‘us’, whatever that means. But then I thought: what if I’m feeling sad because I wish we were closer to them? It is hard to take off the ‘Western glasses’, so to speak, when you travel, in order to look at things with ‘pure’ eyes, leaving behind preconceptions and trying not to be influenced by the distorted reality we are so used to live and function in. I know it sounds like a cliché, but how is it possible that every time we step out from our bubble we realise how little we need in order to be... happy? Or even just to live. What I mean is that there is so much we could learn from them.

As my first time out of Europe, contrasts were of course quite abrupt. However, so were the similarities. And actually, having been born in the Mediterranean—with all the genetic and cultural blend that comes with that—I probably have more in common with them than I thought. There were times when I felt completely understood by them. For some reason, I was able to communicate without words.

Iran is shocking. Not only because of its insanely beautiful and rich architecture, history and culture—it is something else, something beyond the obvious, a feeling that is hard to put in words. Perhaps it’s the people... No, not perhaps, I’m sure about it. I’ve never met such kind and loving souls, and they are what struck me the most, by far.

Iran catches you off-guard, and it made me realise how blind and easily influenced we are here by what we hear or see through someone else’s eyes. I just wanted to observe and absorb everything.”

“What the eye sees, the heart remembers”

- Baba Tahir Uryan

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ON ‘EMBELLISHMENT’

“If you visit an Iranian home, you’ll soon notice every corner is filled with fabric, lace, ribbons, a carpet, a vase, flowers, a dazzling lamp, anything—always with their unique aesthetic, so recognizable in the way they decorate everything. It is actual- ly what makes them so special, and ultimately what makes a house feel like a real home—a task they take very seriously, as one should. And of course, the talent behind this is usually a woman. The concept of ‘home’ is feminine.

To me, this picture evokes a sense of sensuality and self-love; of wanting to make both yourself and the space you live in look and feel pretty despite everything—despite adversity, desolation, uncertainty, maybe even despite emptiness. Like in that picture. There was nothing there. Did it used to be the entrance of a bazaar? It doesn’t matter. There’s sensuality in the fabric, the colour, the waves of its shape. Despite and above all, to me Iran was feminine, radiant, passionate, sensual.”

I am a woman
Who has not buried love alive in her body
The desert that screams: Rain on me.
My heart is heavy
I am a woman
Banished from the abode of the gods.
Let the green-tongued ones of unknown love
Reproach Rabazza and Forugh.
Women who
Love the raw passion of love
Women who, with their pains, cannot be confined
Women who do not hide
Their feelings in the corners of their scarves or behind their veils
or under the carpet.

- Parvin Jahanbani

"Mother's Apricote Compote" by Nia Fekri

"The work I have produced this year has been concerned with language as a tool to delve into the position of the immigrant, within and without the diaspora and the ways in which these affect my personal position to memory, familial lineage and storytelling. The contours and gaps in language, whether written, spoken or audio-visual offer a means to work through and make tangible an experience that is so fragmented and ghostly in it’s nature. The piece I created this year, Mother’s Apricot Compote is foremost an attempt at putting together a personal history, one that is true to its ghosts, traces and residues. To find these things that hover above or beneath the surface of the day / word/image/sound I look to childhood memories and imagined realities; my mother, my aunt, my self and the experience of living as a fragmented self suspended between the stories we told each other and ourselves in solitude."

Caroline Pera

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“I’ve always enjoyed painting portraits as each person represents an entire intimate

world: a world of memories, perceptions, feelings, projects, and choices. Every face has a story to tell. While I was living in Nepal working on another collection, I randomly stumbled upon the surreal Shiva Festival in the heart of Kathmandu, and this truth came spectacularly to life. I was encompassed in a world of hundreds of Babas, those ascetic vagabonds who come from all over India and Nepal to worship Lord Shiva,

dressed in their bright multi-colored fabrics.For their annual three-day festival, the Babas reunite together in an area of small temples perched on a hilltop overlooking

the city and the river that is in constant use for cremation ceremonies. They are surrounded by monkeys, trees, and the campfires used to make their special chai tea. They meditate, reciting mantras while clouds of smoke fume out of their mouths, obliterating their consciousness. Fiery visions seem to take flight from their eyes.

This collection aims to represent the vivid impressions of contrasts I perceived at

the Shiva Festival. The poverty of an ascetic religious life clashes with the grace

and elegance of their glorious colorful tunics. Their quest for the ego’s annulment

contrasts with their proud posture, their poses hinting at self-ostentation. In the paintings, the subjects are estranged from their context and the resulting effect

accentuates their playful aesthetic.”

“The children’s faces were painted using oil paint during my three months stay in the orphanage in Nepal, I asked each child to complete their portrait by painting their bodies using pure pigment from Nepal.The paintings are simultaneously portraits and self-portraits of the children.  My act of collecting, documenting, and presenting disparate fragments of information, which like pieces of a puzzle constitute the child’s portrait, approximate the empirical, quasi-scientific methods employed

in anthropology.”

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‘Utopia means groundlessness, the absence of a point of reference.' - Vilém Flusser. These works are representations of surreal worlds, the utopian landscapes display contemporary elements selected by an eye attentive to the manipulation of natural forms. As Flusser observes in the opening quote, utopia is defined by the absence of a point of reference. In these paintings, the point of reference is lost allowing for a celebration of the creative aspect of the human spirit."

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RICHARD IKHIDE

"Mythology and the ideas and principles found within Myth. Through reading and studying Mythos from different cultures I have observed that there are shared principles and archetypes that appear throughout the world, in looking into these cultures and drawing objects from their ancient past, this helps to inform my understanding and relationship to these cultures. I am interested in how we can better understand our connection to the past and how the human psyche has evolved through the ages. Exploring the commonality between different ethnicities in society and, how we share overarching principles through Mythology, in a time where we have instantaneous access to works from these different cultures via the Internet these common elements become more apparent and visible, in working with these images and drawing from them help to inform a new type of symbol making one that sits within the ‘future-past’, with the works I’m creating speaking to the past and the potential of our future if we integrate these ancient myths, archetypes and objects into our collective psyche."

SISUN Watercolour on 300GSM Waterford Pa
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Louis Mulamula

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"For me photography has always been a way of holding on to a moment in my life. I truly believe we are living in a transformative time and felt compelled to capture what I see and hold on to this moment. Good or bad this time will be looked back on. I want people to be able to see and feel what I saw even if it’s only a little bit. What was before a fleeting memory is forever encapsulated in those frames. I hope you all feel at least something when you look at these photos."

Arnav Kaskebar

"It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. This is an eye opener for the world to be available, kind and aware of the increase in alcohol/ substance abuse during these tough times of COVID 19. This short film also aims to throw light on to the introverts who are feeling trapped not only in their houses but also their minds. We have also added a link that offers donation, therapy and reporting of domestic violence/ substance and alcohol abuse. Please reach out for help if needed.This short film was shot indoors keeping in mind all the rules and regulations of the covid 19 lockdown. @kormi_lamarr @sanamalhotra and I shot bits and pieces in our respective houses and then got on a zoom call to edit. Good way to keep the creative juices flowing. #stayathomefilms I know this lockdown can be really taxing and difficult for all of us. One thing we can do is try and remain in touch with our craft in one way or another. I am an aspiring filmmaker from Mumbai, India. "

JESSICA 
YANG

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 COVID lockdown, while terrible and scary, was the most creative time of my life. My move back home to California from London before starting my new job was so last-minute and unplanned. It created a window of repose I was not supposed to have, which made me really evaluate how I wanted to leverage this stolen time. I almost frantically channeled my energy into art, and I'm grateful for it.

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