Making art, as I’ve always put it, is a habit—a poor one in my case. Making art is not initially creation but constant repetition, salvaged by making puny differences in certain orders on the plane of the feasible. Art is, semiotically speaking, purely negative; it cannot be defined positively. And of course doing it entails not doing something else. Like some of my Iranian colleagues, I’m not doing it these days. We have all seen frames that we can freeze, stick to, and damn. Barring whatever may cross the thresholds of our studios and whatever may enframe and transcend what has been going on in the streets of Iran, perhaps the same thing crossed each of our minds: we have no future.
Certainly we are also established abroad and we can have our own futures beyond these walls, but I’m speaking of those like me who have refused to leave the country and who have decided not to become one more seated in Matisse’s easy chair, chanting “I will rebuild you my country with these tears,” or one more dissolved in the out-of-context souks of the UAE. We have chosen to breathe hatred, tear and pepper gas, instead of hanging onto nostalgia and the myths of exile and of “the innocent artist.” So it’s true to say that in the eclipse of relative political freedom and under the oligarchy and inquisitions of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, we—like millions of Iranian citizens—have planned our to-be by abandoning “labor” and “work” in favor of “action.”
With these words, I would also like to dedicate this paper to all my compatriots and—for the reasons discussed in this paper (and not to be auctioned in October at Christie’s), and because in a situation where even e-flux is sending a petition to the UNO and the EU, Magic of Persia is still financially thinking pink—I declare that as one of the seven finalists for the Magic of Persia Art Prize (MopCap) I strongly denounce their criteria and withdraw my works, for as they would have it:
The contemporary Iranian art scene is not to be underestimated. Recent auction results stand as testament to the global acknowledgement of the vitality of Iranian art, with artists such as Shirazeh Houshiary, Shirin Neshat, Parviz Tanavoli and Farhad Moshiri commanding record prices at sales around the world.1
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