Rybon Art Center is an international, nonpolitical, autonomous, artist-led initiative based in Tehran, Iran. It was established in 2008 with two main objectives: to promote innovation and artistic experimentation among the local artistic community, and to explore possibilities for exchanging ideas and knowledge across borders in the context of contemporary critical art practice in Iran.
From 10 to 23 October 2012, Rybon organized its first International Artists' Workshop, coordinated by Tooraj Khemenehzadeh. Participants Ali Cherri (Lebanon), Sarah Hatahet (Jordan), Gargi Rina (India), Richard Penn (South Africa), and Yang Jian (China) worked together with Iranian artists Amin Davaie, Babak Kazemi, Hamed Rashtian, Katayoun Karami, Mahmoud Mahroumi, and Pooneh Oshidari. Unfortunately, the Kenyan artist Shabu, who was in Germany, couldn't return to Kenya in time to collect his visa at the Iranian Embassy.
The artists spent the first two days getting to know each other and visiting Tehran and its art galleries in order to familiarize themselves with the city’s art scene. They shared their work with one another, using PowerPoint presentations or showing a short film or a number of stills, and took questions from their colleagues and the Rybon team.
Mohsen Art Gallery was chosen as the working space for this first Rybon International Artists Workshop. This vibrant gallery is committed to contemporary art in Tehran and its director, Mr. Ehsan Rasoulof, dedicated the entire gallery space, including its yard and basement, to the project.
The eleven artists worked at Mohsen Art Gallery for two weeks, making preliminary sketches and plans before developing their final projects. For Rybon, the process of art making and the interaction between artists from different backgrounds with different approaches and different artistic, political, and philosophical views is much more important than final works produced in the artists’ private studios in their home countries. In Tehran, the artists created dynamic works, several of which referred - consciously or unconsciously - to themes concerning Tehran.
Ali Cherri, for instance, made a video that depicts Tehran’s streets. The noisy street traffic occupies the foreground, while the Alborz Mountains line the background. The camera looks down at the city streets and zooms out slowly, reaching the mountains and ending with the sky. A group of large black birds fly out of the city, exiting from the corner of the frame. This video opens onto different interpretations. Richard Penn’s strong interest in astrophysics and cosmology, meanwhile, brought a taste of the cosmic to his work. For his beautiful striped mural, he created layers of black and white paint, which he complemented with geometrical pencil drawings on the adjacent wall.
The Iranian sculptor Hamed Rashtian experimented with something different than his usual work. He built a library in a trench-like room made of concrete blocks. The books were placed inside closed wooden boxes that only showed the number and the titles of the books. The titles’ references change depending on the viewers’ backgrounds and opinions. If a viewer were to open one of the boxes, he or she would have found blank paper inside, as if waiting for the as-yet unwritten stories that viewers create in their minds and preserve in their memories. Katayoun Karami used a special painting technique to create wound-like slashes on the gallery walls. She first applied a pink plastic paint layer and, once it was dry, she covered the surface with oil paint. As a result, slashes of different sizes appeared here and there on the wall, revealing the pink color beneath. She also manipulated some of the slashes in order to open them up more.
On the last day of the workshop, Rybon organized an Open Studio so that a local audience could have an opportunity to visit the artists’ studio spaces, see their work, ask questions, express their feelings and perceptions, and exchange ideas. Many also attended the two panel discussions organized as part of the workshop. Panelists Mehdi Moghimnejad, Behnam Kamrani, and Kambiz Mousavi Aghdam are artists and lecturers with a strong understanding of both process art and the nature and goals of artistic workshops. In their comments, they reflected on key ideas and concepts and tried to facilitate a discussion with the audience. An interesting debate arose from a challenge proposed by one of the panelists to consider the difference between the works created during the workshop with those that the same artist makes in his or her private studio, and how the context of creation impacts the different works.
Organizing an international art workshop is challenging: it demands extensive planning, engages many people, requires lots of provisions, and necessitates a lot of luck and faith in artists from overseas whom the organization may only know through recommendations and a few sample works available online. But when, despite these challenges, everything goes well – when the artists leave with new experiences, precious human relationships, skillfully executed creative new work (not to mention the carpets and kilims bought as souvenirs) – then everything comes together.
Member of the organizational team of Rybon Art Center, Tehran, Iran.
Rybon International Artists' Workshop
10 - 23 October 2012
Rybon Art Center
Ali Cherri (Lebanon)
Amin Davaie (Iran)
Sarah Hatahet (Jordan)
Katayoun Karami (Iran)
Babak Kazemi (Iran)
Mahmoud Mahroumi (Iran)
Pooneh Oshidari (Iran)
Richard Penn (South Africa)
Gargi Raina (India)
Hamed Rashtian (Iran)
Yang Jian (China)
In collaboration with Sazmanab Platform and Mohsen Art Gallery
Rybon is a partner of Triangle Network