They Go Bang Bang On My Head, 2011, Gallery AARAN, Tehran, Iran
They Go Bang Bang in My Head
By Ima Shahandeh
Shahram Entekhabi, an Iranian Artist living in Berlin, exhibited his paintings, sculptures and video installations in Aaran Gallery under the title of They Go Bang Bang in My Head. Post-colonial issues like race, immigration and religion, all part of his experience as an immigrant artist in western society, are the central themes of his artworks. His target audience is “the western white man” who has a canonical view towards migrants (here mostly from the Middle East).
Entekhabi has selected his art to be his only form of self-expression and the sole power-making tool. He has made the western man see through his videos, made and produced in western city spaces, what they always remained unaware of. A four-part video of his, shows about immigrant men from religious, racial and party minorities, named Mladen (a Balkan criminal), Islamic Star (an extremist Muslim), and Mahmet (a member of the Kurdish Workers Party PKK), in crowded spaces of the city. Meladen tries to spread terror and attract attention in public places through his sense of sexual superiority. Islamic Star, holding a rosary, wanders around aimlessly and halts in improper places so as to be seen; and Mahmet, frustrated by his hard conditions, burns himself in public view. The only person shown in a closed place is Miguel (a civilian partisan) who, by gazing into the camera and laughing incessantly, tends to ridicule the possible reactions of the audience at his every movement which seem to be the preparation for a terrorist act. The common letter “M” of these names signals the words that construct the main themes of his selected works: manliness, Muslim, migrant, Middle East, minority, and mimicry.
Another theme in Entekhabi’s works is hybridity and cultural difference. In a two-part video, we see Haji Firouz next to a sad Bajazzo. Haji Firouz plays tambourine and sings his conventional songs in order to convince the Bajazzo to forget the grief of his subsistence life, an attempted act that brings no result in the end and hence amplifies the satirical air of the video.
A characteristic trait of these videos is the multiple different roles the artist plays in each video. He sometime undergoes a long process of make-up to play a role.
Among the works selected are those context-specific paintings which the artist made in Lahore, Pakistan, with the aid of a Lollywood film poster artist. In these paintings Entekhabi plays the roles of the films’ leading actors by appropriating them and hence proposing again the notion of conformation with foreign cultures. As a marginal work to the exhibition, Shahram Entekhabi produced and displayed a context-specific video with the collaboration of young artists , showing the theme of the influence of a small group’s “violence” on society and vice versa.
Narration is a common trait in Entekhabi’s works in various media. His drawings, done not very skillfully, are about cultural self-criticism and emerge as narrations on, and criticisms of, power relations and the controversial issue of “oil”. His combined creatures are confined in a ridiculous loop in which they fight with each other about their benefits and positions (these works were also displayed in the form of a video installation set in a TV frame, reminding one of the old Iranian visual entertainment Shahr-i Farang2 ). In his drawing he has utilised scripture and text in a unique method. For example in Mulla Nasruddin his surreal figures and combined human-animal creatures are set in such a way to make the words “Mulla Nasruddin ” and ironically depict the folkloric tales that have proven to be still true in the contemporary world.
The prominent characteristic of Entekhabi’s works is their exaggerated irony. Appealing to the ideas of Baudrillard, Entekhabi thinks of the best way for a migrant artist to offer and execute irony in his works so that he can face the bitter truth of living in a western society and find a way to bear the burden of living under conditions of discrimination, cultural difference, and conformation.
Ima Shahandeh, Editorial Assistant, Art tomorrow Magazine, Tehran, Iran
Exhibition review by Ima Shahandeh published in Art tomorrow no.5
They Go Bang Bang On My Head, solo show in Gallery AARAN, JUNE 2011, Tehran, Iran