Shahram Entekhabi: About Myself, My Work, Curatorial work, Factory TT Video Art Collection and Workshops
As an Iranian-born artist who left to study in Europe, I am a product of Persian-Islamic culture enriched with a deep insight of European culture and its everyday life. As I travel the world and witness the similarities and differences between various cultures, I observe my surroundings without consuming it. People and their cultures intrigue me and in my study of them, of us and how we are, I attempt to also understand myself. Hence, I don’t separate myself from my work.
My main interest is to reveal our sense of insecurity when faced with someone unfamiliar to us. My work therefore engages with our prejudices and suspicion of ‘the Other’, of our fear and delusions. I explore this by visualizing our fear and paranoia and the stereotypes we construct of ‘the Other’ because of colour, religion or ethnicity; as well as how we try to separate ‘them’ from ‘us’ and in that process, how we participate in the ghettoization of the minority through perception, politics, propaganda and control.
I build my work via live art and performative elements, using videos, architecture, sculptures, paintings, drawings and photographs.
My Journey So Far and Beyond
Throughout my journey and stays around the world, I’ve come to realize how our cultural belonging is to a large extent shaped by our childhood. For it is during our childhood that we are able to discover, understand and experiment in what is usually a secure and protected environment. At least for me, that was the case. My surroundings was deeply imbued with a strong sense of spirituality and this was where my impressions of Self, of others and how I engaged with the world was formed.
My experiences continued even when I left for Europe, but my engagement with my surroundings shifted in that I had to adapt my behaviour, which became more calculated and was often times, an after-thought. I had to think about everything. I would say I have always observed the West with my Eastern eyes. I have always tried to strengthen my position as a medium between East and West. As such, I enjoy traveling across borders and discovering the space shared by these two cultures – a fascinating and exciting environment in which we are able to locate elements that may be different (and that’s okay) as well as elements that are common and can be shared and celebrated. I endeavour to find a channel for people to communicate, to engage in a dialogue and not a monologue.
My Identity and Social Reality
Living in migration for many years and having an assortment of so-called identities imposed on me, e.g. ‘foreigner’, ‘Persian’, ‘Muslim’, etc. has made me realize how one’s personal identity is really a hybrid and not monolithic at all. We are who we are, made up of and influenced by a variety of inter-playing elements. My consciousness about being an artist has definitely given me the opportunity to discover experiences of being in contrasting environments and understanding how this impacts one’s identity. Fascinatingly enough, it has allowed me to come ‘home’…Through reflection and introspection, I’ve come to appreciate how the spiritual, Muslim and Oriental aspects of my upbringing are very much a part of who I am as an individual. Indeed, I see the artist as a hybrid, a very elastic sort of identity, of having access to what ‘was’ and ‘is’. I also believe in the necessity of cultures opening up to each other and to mutually contribute towards the thought and production of contemporary art.
Me and Iran
I am fascinated by notions of ‘Iranian/Persian culture’ – of its location beyond borders of time and geography. Perhaps this is due to my upbringing- a significant period of my life was spent in Iran and it was a happy one. Further, as one who is in a constant state of migration, I have always sought for a ‘home’ away from ‘home’. It is amusing to note that the tendency to cast individuals within a single category is no different with how societies, cultures and even countries are perceived. Certainly Iran’s position as a cultural and geographical corridor between the East and West has been overlooked.
My work is often framed within an urban setting and inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s writings on the 19th century concept of the "Flaneur" and diffusing the idea of urban space being reserved for the practice and performance of the white, middle class, hetero-sexual male. Instead I choose to highlight those individuals who would ordinarily be marginalized, made invisible or forced into self-‘ghettoisation' from the urban domain such as migrant communities and their culture, particularly the communities from the Middle East and their diaspora. The question of visibility and invisibility, therefore, has been a situation that I actively explore within my practice, mostly with reference to my earlier video work.
Drawings, works on Paper
While I exhibited my video works and installations actively and world wide, for some years it was not very well-known that I also use the medium of drawing since a significant number of years. Since the middle of the last decade, my drawings also often deal with aspects of identity and the complex of seeing and being seen. In the drawing series Fresh Me (2003/10) for example I use ethnological sketches from the prime time of “Orientalism” and reinterpret them, also by giving the clichéd male protagonists my own facial features. In the series Carrying Man (2012) I show myself during various attempts to “master” a suitcase, which is a symbol from my early performances. The series includes my attempts of blowing up the suitcase, of using it as a backing during the attempt to hang myself, or of using it as a rowboat to move away. In recent time, drawing becomes the center of my practice. Often I use mixed media, e.g. ball pen and metal glitter on paper – like in the series Quartet Drawings (2011). A connective element in the series is a golden figuration in one of each drawing‘s corner that reminds us of an Oriental ornament but varies from it because of its irregularity and it strange content: The figuration reminds us of arms and hands threateningly sprawled out. Compared to the video performances, the drawings allow me a more complex depiction of the inner processes and the outer factors as a base for my protagonists’ actions. Recently, I started a new body of work that no longer include my own features but strongly relates to folklore and elements of (Iranian) fables and fairy-tales like Shahre Ghese (2012). The elements are in a way rather abstract depiction of particular stereotyped figures.
My Curatorial in Factory TT with Asieh Salimian
I’ve been traveling to Iran regularly for more than 10 years. During this time I had many exhibitions there and I have established close valuable contacts with the art scene, artists, galleries, institutes and other participations. The flourishing art scene in Iran has motivated me to get involved there. I have come into contact with many young artists. I have collaborated with many artists and we exchanged views in many workshops and lectures. On the other hand, I encountered a narrowness in the outmaneuver possibilities of the art establishment, caused by the lack of an institutional system, no adequate educational opportunities and no international encounter. While the few galleries were in backyards and underground, today they are ubiquitous.
The handling of art has been transformed into a system of economic speculation, Art forgery and the ignoring discursive questions, or contextual systems. The result is a single market, a local art bubble, that has nothing to do with the value system of an international art community.Real problems in one of the most stressful cities in the world, Issues such as child and women's rights, youth unemployment, environmental degradation, massive drug abuse, prostitution, rising diseases and skyrocketing cancer rates…
Thus, every form of social relatedness of Art has been abandoned in the course of a year-long embargo and domestic destabilization. Iranian contemporary art seeks a cultural identity rooted in past dynasties and historical processes prior to the Islamic Revolution. The present and the future, topics such as the reappraisal of the Iraq-Iran war or the social reality of an Islamic republic are not part of this search for identity. In contrast, the image of Iranian art in the West is dominated by the usual suspects who are in a limited gallery system without contextualization on the ground. Because of these observations, it would be less important for me to show my art in Iran. rather, I have set myself the task of becoming an intermediary in Iranian art.
We believe that art neither requires nor possesses a passport or visa, that there should be no denial or granting of access to determine success. The circulation of art is at an unprecedented level, yet gaps, white spaces, remain when it comes to the global presentation and reception of non-Western art. We want to challenge these "blind spots" and work toward a change in perspective. The concept of transculturality is our guideline: it sketches a different picture of the relation between cultures, no one of isolation or conflict, but one of entanglement, intermingling and commonality. Factory TT was initiated 2015 by Shahram Entekhabi and Asieh Salimian as an art education platform.
After a series of actions, performances and workshops in various locations in Iran, Factory TT started with the large exhibition project "Copy / Paste" with 13 international artists in Tehran and Isfahan in 2017.
In the same year Factory TT accomplished the first art festival "Tabdil / Tolid" (Farsi for Conversion / Production) in the public space of the city of Ardabil in Northwestern Iran. The project focuses on the aspects of ecology and sustainability and what has been achieved with the participation of local artists and the public in cooperation with the National Environmental Authority.
Factory TT Video Art Collection
Since 2015 I and Asieh Salimian have co-producing new video works with Iranian artists on a regular basis "Factory TT Video Art Collection". Events such as screenings, artist talks and exhibitions are presented to the public using the videos in the collection. These co-productions serve to promote contemporary positions in Iranian video art and to further upgrade the collection. Intensive reviews and discussions on important historical and contemporary works of international video art from the 1970s until the present through an examination of feminism, experimentation, identity, performance, interactivity, embodiment, surveillance, narrative, installation, theatre, activism and postcolonialism.
Are focussing on the production, post-production, presentation and exhibition of video art. A selection that will be process to choose some of the videos developed in the workshop for a presentation in a group exhibitions and more.
Shahram Entekhabi 2023
شهرام انتخابی 尚莱姆_恩特卡比
Shahram Entekhabi is an German-Iranian- artist, curator & architect, currently living & working across Tehran, Iran - Berlin, Germany and Europe.