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Parastou Forouhar

3 installations by this artist from Iran and her critical approach towards the situation in her country.
By Annette Tietenberg | Apr 2003

Documentation, 2003 >>
Installation that documents Parastou Forouhar's futile efforts to obtain information on the people behind her parents' murder.
Sensitized for the hidden mechanisms of gradual political conformity and intolerance, Parastou Forouhar always stands on the side of those, who engage themselves for the respect of the rights of man, the ostracism of tyranny, and the strengthening of civilian society. She is not afraid to tell her personal story in the context of art or to exploit the public forum to which she, as an artist, has access in order to publicize the murder of her parents that was commissioned by the Iranian secret service. In the form of an emphatically objective documentation, she compiles letters, newspaper articles, and photographs that, assembled as in a mosaic, reveal the image of a repressive and unscrupulous power apparatus that rids itself of uncomfortable dissidents through cowardly murder. Whoever wants to know more than what transpires from a tour of the exhibition or wishes to contribute to the circulation of this information, can duplicate the correspondence, press releases, and written reactions on the photocopying machine provided, and take the material home. In this manner, Parastou Forouhar uses the space of art to circulate information and thoughts. Instead of giving way to a feeling of helplessness and of sinking into paralyzing sadness, she preserves an active memory of Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar - in 1998, they were attacked in their home in Tehran, slain with knifes, and left lying in their blood.

Funeral, 2003 >>
Installation: 22 office chairs, fabric
Despite all the horrors, setbacks, and threats, Parastou Forouhar still believes in the possibility of change. And she trusts the fact that life does not only consist of simple contrasts. She, who had to learn the pain of finding a place in the ambivalence of signs, confronts us with an art that combines horror and beauty, past and present, the unknown and the familiar. In the knowledge of political control over the ornament, she has never stopped loving the soft, rhythmic line of her mother tongue and the suggestive Persian patterns that in the repetition and variations of their individual motifs demonstrate a small piece of infinity. For ordinary writing desk chairs that exist in all the stuffy little offices of the world, she prescribes richly ornamented, contextual robes: In her piece "Funeral", she covers the seemingly neutral symbols of generalized modern age officialdom with printed fabric that despite its blaze of color is still in the best of cases only a pale replica of the former prime of Persian court art. Viewers, who cannot read Persian, can lightheartedly enjoy the endless variety of technically reproduced characters. It is only on request that they will learn that they have been admiring the gory death lament on the Shiite martyr Imam Hossein.

Thousand and one day, 2003 >>
Wallpaper, Freehand-drawing
The "Thousand and one day" wallpaper, purposely designed for the exhibition, displays a decorative effect, when seen from a distance. Whoever comes closer, however, is chocked at the detail of what, at first sight, was an apparently casual pattern: the viewer sees cruel scenes of torture, clearly illustrated by Parastou Forouhar on the basis of an indivisible mixture of fantasy, readings, and victim accounts. The artist transposes the injuries of the human body, conceived by anonymous torture slaves in order to inflict the greatest possible pain onto their faceless victims, into schematic computer drawings. The pictogram style additionally increases the ambivalence of the situation: the question of the form remains unanswered. Is this a Wailing Wall woven appropriately to the digital age in the ones and zeros of the computer code, or is it an emotionlessly documented collection of instructions for human submission, that are daily unscrupulously followed by an army of people faithful to the system?


Annette Tietenberg

Art historian and art critic. Lives in Cologne, Germany.

Parastou Forouhar:
Thousand and one day

10 May - 29 June 2003

Hamburger Bahnhof

Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin

Invalidenstr. 50-51
10557 Berlin


Britta Schmitz and Alexandra Karentzos



Texts by Britta Schmitz, Alexandra Karentzos and Annette Tietenberg,

80 pages, numerous images.

Ed.: Staatliche Museen Berlin and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne

12 Euro

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