curated by Catherine David, Odile Burluraux, Morad Montazami, Narmine Sadeg and Vali Mahlouji
Galleries 2 and 4
Over 200 works, for the most part unseen in Italy, and more than 20 artists taking us through an exploration of Iran’s contemporary history from 1960 until today.
The exhibition’s three chronological sections are comprised of a wide variety of artworks – paintings, photographs, installations, graphic arts – and documents – archival material, journals, posters, videos – that help to reconstruct the social and political reality underlying the different manifestations of visual culture and modernism in Iran.
The exhibition is thus an attempt to recreate the important ‘sequences’ of events, ideas and changes produced by these manifestations over the past fifty years: the period of the Shah, the Revolution and the birth of the Islamic Republic, the war against Iraq and recent decades.
The title Unedited History refers to the process of film editing, to montage: the phase after a film has been shot but when the different sequences are still fragments, yet to be connected to create a coherent whole.
This was the period in Iran when the world of culture acquired its greatest importance, with a notable development of the visual and performing arts and publishing.
It was a period of internationally recognised events, including the Biennales, and the birth of new institutions such as the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, supported by the Shah and particularly by the Empress Farah Diba.
The focus at this time was on the definition of an Iranian identity and non–Western, or non–‘westernised’ art: the beginning of a process of ‘modernization’ through complex artistic forms and techniques that fused tradition with novelty, history with myth, and politics with metaphysics.
At the same time, the inequalities between the different levels of Iranian society only increased, inciting strong protests again the Pahlavi monarchy.
The Revolution produced many images. They offer contrasting points of view and account for the representation of the individual as much as society — it is enough to consider the unprecedented mobilisation of protesting crowds.
Even the Iran-Iraq War, referred to by the Iranians as the ‘Imposed War’ or the ‘Sacred Defence’, is of fundamental importance to the development of documentary practices in photography, video and cinema.
This was also the period of the creation of the clandestine archives of a range of disparate material that strongly contrasted the official interpretation of events.
After the end of the war with Iraq, modern capitalism was integrated gradually, though not without some difficulties, into the Islamic regime, and the country was witness to the development of a civil society.
Even during these years, political changes had an influence on the development of the country’s artists.
While in the past they were called upon to support the government – refusal meant silence, removal from the circuit of official art or forced emigration – they now produced works that responded increasingly more often to the requests of the international art market.
Many artists, after relocating to Europe, above all France, experimented with different media and approaches to those taught back home until the 1980s.
A new generation of photographers, all heirs of Bahman Jalali and Kaveh Golestan, instead remains faithful to the traditions of documentary photography of the 1970s and 80s, opposing the aestheticisation of the images of fashion and advertising.
For this exhibition, the Educational Department asked members of the Iranian community to offer a shared interpretation of their recent heritage.
The result was the MAXXI’s first intercultural mediation project devoted to a temporary exhibition. Participants, of different ages, backgrounds and professions, examined a selection of works and artists during ten participated writing workshops.
Thanks to exchanging opinions and considerations, they wrote personal stories that begin with the works on display to narrate a private experience linked to collective sentiments.
This life experiences allow us to read the exhibition from a different point of view, and accompany visitors along an itinerary defined by ‘other’ voices than the institutional voice of the Museum.
The texts, whose short version is presented alongside the various pieces of the exhibition, were discussed at great length during the meetings, until they became a common and participated contribution.