Persian Garden

by Bahman Kiarostami

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Persian Garden, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the largest and most ambitious art exhibition in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Curator Faryar Javaherian invited over thirty renowned Iranian artists to respond to a theme that is paramount to Iranian history and culture: the Persian garden. Ancient Wisdom, New Vision, which opened at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in September 2004, attracted record crowds. The exhibition included painting, architecture, photography, video art, installations, conceptual art, music, performance, and environmental art.

Director Bahman Kiarostami followed the artists—among them his father, Abbas Kiarostami, as well as Parviz Tanavoli, Farideh Lashai, Farshid Mesghali, and Dariush Mehrjui—from the inception of their artwork to its delivery to the museum. The film includes footage of artists at work and presents interviews in which they speak candidly about their creative process and talk about what the Persian Garden represents to them, about the role that these gardens have played in their lives. Many of their works challenged traditional notions of the Persian Garden, which sparked a lively dialogue in the press and in the international artistic community.

This exhibition pays tribute to the idea of garden as paradise, at the same time that it displays stunning examples of paradise lost. A simulacrum of a forest—an installation of large-scale photographs of trees affixed to poles fascinates viewers with its contextual confusion. Aerial photographs of famous Persian gardens obscured by smog pit the ancient ways against current environmental concerns.

Some of the artists in Ancient Wisdom, New Vision explored this theme in traditional media, while others employed state-of-the-art technology. As the film brings audiences into the artists’ studios to watch them create and the museum to see the final installations, we experience the transcendent qualities of art, the commonalities, that unite, rather than divide artists working in Iran from those who live in the West.

The seeds for this exhibition were planted under twenty-six years ago, but the post-revolutionary climate prevented the project from coming to fruition until now. Pundits believe that a more conservative government will rise after the next Iranian elections, and artistic endeavors such as this one may be discouraged or severely limited. Recording this singular artistic event, Kiarostami’s film may be a rare opportunity for the international public to experience some of the rich artistic offerings of this country.

Bahman Kiarostami
Bahman was born in Tehran in 1978. He started working as an assistant director in 1996. His documentary films have focused on the political power of faith inside contemporary Iranian culture and eloquently explore the comples layers of religious significance in the Iranian controversial society. He has collaborated with Butimar Productions on numerous award winning films such as Pilgrimage, Infidels, Persian Gardens and Kamancheh. For a complete list of his films please visit: http://www.bahmankiarostami.com

Marjaneh Moghimi
Marjaneh is the founder of Butimar Productions and has produced numerous award-wining documentaries with acclaimed directors such as Michael Apted, Bahman Kiarostami, Justine Shapiro, and Mitra Farahani.  Her latest collaboration was with renowned director Bahram Beyzaie on his shadow-play Jana and Baladoor.

Iran Heritage Foundation
http://www.iranheritage.org

Nanos Operetta was formed in the winter of 2001 by vocalist Ali Tabatabai and multi-instrumentalist Max Baloian. Using a wide array of Western and Eastern instruments and found percussion, Nanos Operetta incorporates elements of film music, modern chamber, minimalism, cartoon music, avant jazz, and cabaret into their unique observations of the human condition. Forgoing traditional song forms for more elaborately detailed extended pieces, the ensemble creates compositions that have more relation to the scoringof film, using recurring themes and motifs. Tabatabai creates a thematic bond and continuous narrative thread, breaking the overarching narrative into sung and spoken passages that move between the individual vignettes.

Nanos Operetta is Ali Tabatabai, Max Baloian, Phil Williams, Craig Demel, Robin Reynolds, and Jason Ditzian. The ensemble is based in the Bay Area. For more information,please visit their website at www.nanosoperetta.com.