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12/03/07

Profile of an Iranian artist: Shahram Entekhabi


Shahram Entekhabi
, born 1963, is an Iranian-born artist and architect whose work has been the subject of many exhibitions all over the world, currently living and working across London, Berlin and Tehran. Shahram's practice is framed within an urban setting and diffuses the idea of the urban space being a reserve for the practice and performance of the white, middle class, heterosexual male. He explores these ideas via a variety practices using architecture, installation and digital media.
He chooses to highlight individuals who are ordinarily marginalized and made invisible or forced into "self-ghettoization" from the urban domain, such as migrant communities and their cultures, particularly the communities from the Middle East and its diaspora. The question of visibility and invisibility therefore is a theme he recurrently explores within his practice.

 

Biography

 

Shahram Entekhabi is an Iranian artist living and working in London, Berlin and Tehran. He is active in the fields of video art, photography, painting, drawings, installation, performance art and community art.
He studied graphic-design at the University of Tehran, Iran in and studied architecture, urbanism, and Italian language in Perugia and Reggio Calabria, Italy. Works as independent architect on residential projects and competitions. Currently active in the fields of video art, photography, painting, drawing, installation, performance and community art. He received a 2004 fellowship at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. 2007 Live Art UK Touring Commission R&D (Research and Development grants).

 

About the artist
 

The main premise of his work is the transportation of ideas via live art and performative, elements, fusing video, architecture, sculpture, drawing and photography. In particular, his work is always 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, heterosexual male. Instead he 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 he actively explores within his practice. With reference to his earlier video works.

 

Since the video work "i?" he started a big series with the so-called "migrant-figure" that embodies clichés of the West on behaviours of various migrants, especially those from the Middle East. While women from this region are often seen as oppressed with all freedom taken away and forced by their fundamentalist men or fathers or family to wear the chador men are seen as the aggressor, the potential fundamentalist, the terrorist.The migrant figure is a somewhat minimalist version of what Western Europeans imagine as the migrant (the so called "guest worker"): a cheap suit, old-fashioned shoes, a suitcase.

 

While "i?" has a complex narration and deals with a twin migrant-figure (as if a split personality) the later videos with the migrant figure show him in very reduced but somewhat typical actions: walking down a road ("Road movie-2"), walking through deserts ("Gold"), failure when celebrating a birthday party ("Alcazar 2450-2"), walking through the territory of an abandoned factory ("Rockefeller boulevard-2"), making a statement by using caution tape as if raising claim for his own territory ("Caution-2", "Attenzione"). He is always on the move, mostly with his belongings in a suitcase in his hand. Recently I started a new series, with new figures of migrants, also meeting the various prejudices: the Islamic fundamentalist, the Kurdish activist, the Guerrilla-guy, the criminal from the Balkans. Here the conception of the figures is radicalized: they are no longer the almost invisible friendly helper of the German reconstruction. Some of these figures are having an enormous auto-aggression, burning themselves, firing a grenade next to themselves... In "Islamic star", the figure is showing the stigma of an Islamic star on his shirt (with an "m" for "Muslim" on the star, similar to the ones that German Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi regime). What does it mean if I as a (male) artist am putting myself in the position of a "criminal" and a negative element in societyDoes this mean to repeat the aggression of Western society and direct it against myself as an act of catharsis?

 


video still
Dead Satellites, 2007, 24:00 min., HD, 16/9 video, colour, sound


Shahram Entekhabi: "In my eyes it is quite rare that a male artists works with his personal body in this sense (beyond the fetish). Therefore I think that it is an interesting question in terms of analyzing the position of migrants, especially if you compare my auto-aggressive behavior to the one of the female artists since the 70s. I transport this confrontation also in my sculptures and para-architectures. In installation "M" (based on five lockers which four of them content the outfit and equipments of my performed different migrant figures and an empty one, and five large mirror framed by lights bubbles) I construct a sculpture of memories of myself and the others, trans-identity, xenophobia, and Sinophobe.

 

In the par-architectures series Caution-Place, is the abstractive-sculptures build during the performance series like "Attenzione' or "Caution" developed in a usable architectures building made of the caution taps. This par-architectures/public-spaces give a temporary platform for different performances uses by myself, other artists, and public."

video i?
Year: 2003-2004 / Original format: video on dvd / Duration: 4:17 min


 

Entekhabi was more interested in the conceptual nature of FILM than in any of its more modernist features. This concept includes the enlisting of a Hollywood star, of course, thus making a pre-post-modernist claim for the abolition of that boundary between popular and high culture. But the primary element of that concept is the unlikely combination of going around in the public space of the city while never revealing the face. For today, it is of crucial importance to reflect on the relationship between the individual subject whose life the constitution demands we respect, and the larger communities whose members the Western World denies that individuality. For, as "i?" in its intertextual relationship to FILM seeks to explore, it is not productive to remain obsessed with the individual face as long as a true Levinasian face-to-face cannot occur.
 

The mechanics of a conceptual exploration, abolishing the heroizing individualism that subtends Hollywood stardom along with elite notions of artistic genius, offer an opportunity to do research on identity without sentimentalizing that concept, reclaiming it from abuse in identity politics and its backlash. In this sense, "i?" reclaims the complex meanings of, and intricate relationships among, post-structuralism (the concept), postmodernism (the philosophy of the subject) and postcolonialism (the reclaimed, literally re-incorporated search for identity in a culturally hybrid world).


This intertextual relationship to both Beckett and Keaton, two stars of modernist as it tips over into postmodernism, is at the heart of a "new historicism" that is not an attempt to reclaim history as if poststructuralism had never happened, but instead claims a historical position for the acknowledgement of the contemporary in all historical relationships to the past. This pre-posterous historicity anchors the present in a firm bound to the past of the American West woven into Beckett's FILM by means of Keaton's particular acting style and his by 1965 pre-posterous movements, to the past the migrant carries on his back, from the western-exploited middle East and the traces of its own popular culture in small tokens we see here and there, shimmering through their insignificance.
 

"i?" is not a remake of FILM. The differences between FILM and "i?" are important. Beckett filmed in black and white, I filmed in color. In spite of the passers-by in the frame, the figure in Beckett's film is primarily alone with his identity crisis; his running, climbing and scuttling around appears to merge from an inner need. Mine is examining identity in the midst of the turmoil of the multicultural city. To Beckett's twenty-two minutes, He substitute a 4.17 minute's film on a loop, increasing narrative pace while slowing down diegetic pace. The explanatory ending is gone, and replaced by a circular structure. The beginning, when the figure looks into the mirror while shaving, is buckled up to the ending, which is double. First, he enters his home through the door, then arrives there and cannot open the door. Looking into the mirror is completely different after having been a mirror to others all day long.
 

Those differences turn the later film into a critical commentary on the earlier one, in true postmodernist fashion. But it is also clear that this is a dialogue, not a rejection, of everything that Beckett's film contains but keeps implicit: most importantly, the rationale of the combination of going out in a public space while hiding of the face. The later film brings out these implicit elements, pre-posterously revising the earlier work instead of treating it like a corpse ready for dissecting. This is an approach to a cultural artifact that supplements, but also constitutes, academic scholarship - indeed, revealing aspects of Beckett's work that the written word would have a mighty hard time articulating.


Entekhabi's project was also to foreground the crossing, in culture, of two systemic relationships: vertical so to speak, to other artworks from the past, here, Beckett's and Keaton's FILM, and a horizontal one, in the present, between art and the popular culture that populates the urban space and that none of us can esoterically ignore. Both relationships already cross when Keaton, belatedly by forty years, reenacts his past as a comic, a star of the silent film with its particular loaded movements, and his significance as the figure of the migrant going West.

 

 


Playboy Cards


Exhibitions

 

2007

  • Bare Life, curator Raphie Etgar - Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel

  • PAN Opere e documenti 2005-2007 - curator Marina Vergiani, alazzo delle Arti Napoli, Neapel, Italy

  • Mahrem, curators Emre Baykal in collaboration with Nilufer Gole - santralistanbul, Istanbul - Turkey

  • Krieg der Knöpfe (War of the Buttons. Children and the World of War) - Landesmuseums, Linz, Austria

  • LED-Wall, Zeithaus, VW Autostadt, Wolfsburg, Germany

  • HAZARD: Performance Festival- Manchester City Centre, UK

  • Comme amaro stu ppane - Centre d'art Nei Liicht, Dudelange, Luxembourg

  • Sin cobertura. Independent Video from the Middle East- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain

  • War of the Buttons. Children and the World of War - Århus Kunstbygning Center for Contemporary Art, Århus, Denmark

  • LOOP - Espace Croisé, Roubaix Cedex 1, France
     

2006

  • been a long way, baby (solo exhibition) - Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow, Poland

  • der Knöpfe (War of the Buttons) - Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal-Unteröwisheim, Germany

  • Land Is My Land (II/ Berlin) - Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK), Berlin

  • Biennale - Busan Museum of Modern Art, Busan Yachting Center, Korea

  •  : Visual sound - Ljubljana, Slovenia.

  • TAG = 100 VIDEOS - Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, Germany

  • III - Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK), Berlin

  • - Dévoiler - Villa du Parc- Centre d'art Contemporain, Annemasse, France

  • X - zu Rassismus und Ausgrenzung - Nikolaikirche, Rostock, Germany

  • Land Is My Land - Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Germany (catalogue)

  • - La Capella, Barcelona, Spain (catalogue)

  • Artists Residency Exhibition - Vasl Art, Haveli Baroodkhana, Lahore, Pakistan

  • In Space. 19th Annual Images Festival - Vtape, Toronto, Canada

  • Media Arts international, the Middle Eastern Video Project - Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

  • in Common (solo exhibition) - Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

  • Art - Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, USA

  • Creatures - Pori Art Museum, Pori, Finland (catalogue)

  • Collections - CentrePasquArt Kunsthaus/ Centre d'art, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland

  • - The View Behind the Make-up - Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Shahram Entekhabi's web site: www.entekhabi.org/

 

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