The phenomenon of contemporary Iranian art grapples with a profound divide between artists living and working in Iran and those in the diaspora, creating a metaphorical limbo that highlights the complex dynamics and challenges artists face in both contexts. This separation between artists living in Iran and those living outside of Iran remains a recurring theme, where connection and dialogue often depend on the efforts of the artists themselves.
This divide becomes evident when examining the practice of curated exhibitions over the past decade. These exhibitions often carry titles such as "Artists Inside and Outside Iran," artificially delineating boundaries based on prevailing geopolitical and social factors. This not only reflects the development and perception of contemporary art in Iran but also manipulates Western views of Iranian art.
In their thought-provoking photo series Betwixt (2012), Shahram Entekhabi and Behrang Samadzadegan embody these roles. The two artists take on the task of bridging the divide between artists living inside Iran and those in the diaspora. The series captures the essence of the challenges faced by Iranian artists in fostering connection and meaningful dialogue.
The photograph showcases Entekhabi and Samadzadegan standing in neighboring telephone booths, engaged in separate conversations. While it remains unclear who they are speaking to, the compressed space suggests they may be communicating with each other. However, despite their physical proximity, they are positioned back to back, isolated within their respective cubicles. This visual metaphor reflects the struggle for communication and understanding that exists between artists on both sides of the divide.
Entekhabi, situated on the left, holds his hand over his ear as if straining to hear through the phone receiver, his face displaying a hint of puzzlement. On the right, Samadzadegan leans forward in desperation, reaching for the tray in the booth, as if repeating the same words in vain.
The Betwixt series serves as a poignant commentary on the state of contemporary Iranian art, capturing the challenges faced by artists living in Iran and those in the diaspora. It emphasizes the responsibility placed on the artists themselves to initiate and sustain dialogue across the divide. The photograph encapsulates the complexities and limitations artists encounter in their efforts to foster connection, collaboration, and understanding within the realm of contemporary Iranian art.
Through their evocative work, Entekhabi and Samadzadegan shed light on the intricacies of the divide, challenging prevailing boundaries and prompting contemplation on the possibilities for connection and mutual understanding within the realm of Iranian contemporary art.