Shahre Gheseha (City of Tales شهر قصه ها)

A site-specific exhibition of contemporary art


27 28th April 2018

Karim Khan Bridge, Tehran


Curated by: Asieh Salimian


Participating artists: Farshad Alekhamis | Negar (Zahra) Alemzade Gorji | Mostafa Choobtarash | Shahram Entekhabi | Alireza Jodey | Babak Kazemi | Zartosh Rahimi | Shahryar Rezaei | Roohangiz Safarinezhad | Ali Soltani Tehrani |



Shahre Gheseha (City of Tales شهر قصه ها)

Drawing on notions of borders, territory, migration, and collective memory, the exhibition presents works by ten different individual artists. The artworks examine social and political tensions experienced worldwide, as well as the

ways that personal experience, national identity, and community intersect in storytelling to simultaneously shape and destabilize history.


Most of the legends have magical, fabulous, horrid or satiric aspects. Most of the time they come to a happy ending that might trigger hope and motivation in life. Also, they have moral and instructive applications in life and root in the life conditions, and rituals. In the exhibition The City of Tales, the artists have employed the “narrative” framework and on the basis of that, they have discussed the social and cultural issues such as gender roles, morality, history, politics, the environment and complexities of the human being in relationship to legends and other forms of oral history. Due to the relationship between historiography and imagination in order to record the history, the exhibition “Shahre Gheseha” indicate how the narrative in contemporary art can turn into the images.

The artists in the City of Tales exhibition are using different media and techniques in order to create the narratives which reflect the situation in a city like Tehran and have hyperbolically exploited fictional aspects that come from the traditional of the myths, the legends and oral history that are perfectly reflected in the artworks.

This exhibition is going to show contemporary works of art that have new interpretations of both the traditional Persian legends and contemporary Persian stories. In other words, these artistic phenomena suggest a new relationship towards social anxieties and concerns such as injustice, exploitation, abuse of power and other relevant issues.

The City of Tales shows how contemporary art can create a different story or an alternative by transforming existing stories. By developing controversial aspects in the visual arts, this exhibition is questioning the aspect of “truth” in documentations and historiography as well as in mass media and the news. This exhibition is indicating the complexity of historiographical methods in the mass media productions by having a glance at the uses and abuses of the past in defining and identifying national identity.

The increasing number of narratives in the contemporary art, cinema, social media that are based on historical elements create alternatives for the national myths, partly also including aspects from other cultures. Considering how controversial is the nature of the narrative, these changes can be a stimulant to question historical “truth”. And this leads to an interactive aspect of this exhibition: The audience can participate in the process of creating the historical narrative with the help of contemporary art.

Shahram Entekhabi says about his video installation The City of Tales: “This particular community that we are talking about, what do they have in the warp and woof of their existence which differentiates them from others?” And one can add: What’s the origin of the traditions that Entekhabi utilizes in his works with their allegorical beings like mice, elephants and beetles? More than anything, this is the Persian classical literature which represents the tradition that is frequently being talked in the Old Persian stories, full of fantasy.

The City of Tales is a re-reading of a tales and stories that are reproduced in contemporary times, narrating the endless contradiction of the human, specifically Persian man. In a satiric narrative the different classes of Iranian society have been identified with animals that narrate the persistent human contradiction. It seems that Entekhabi’s blue four-parted elephant, is no illustrated transformation of the fictional story, but as Molavi’s famous story “The Elephant in Darkness” can be the elephant of Mathnavi that indicates the fragmental and selfish (personal) points of view of each of us of reality; the reality which is being limited to each fragment that we like and define it as the whole reality. This unilateral look is the basis of our contradiction, and how well Entekhabi has conveyed it. The man who is continuously changing his identity and is not stable in any identity.

In the video works made by Entekhabi, the human being is sometimes turning into a clown, sometimes into an elephant and sometimes it is not yet a complete human being, instead some horns emerge on his head. This clandestine human, full of complexity, can never be uniform and one-dimensional. Certainly, these contradictions and complexities in this inconstancy (instability) doesn’t leave the artist himself alone even in these thirty years passing of his immigration. Entekhabi has been successful in stepping the world in which art can record and re-write the realities of the artist’s life and its surroundings.

Farshad Ale Khamis’s scrabbled collages narrate the story of the artist that is composed of his memories and the accumulation of his writings. About his work, he says: “My current day is made of my past experiences and memories. Each part of the image, that you are watching at, is narrating a particular part of my life. Part of these memories have faded over time and part of them are as close as yesterday. I belong to the generation of Iranian society which deals both with tradition and modernity as well as revolution and war, and the result of all the contradiction is a shattered image. Each part has its own boundaries, narrative and history. In a world without any specific beginning and ending, there is nothing but continuity, repetition and some scribbled memories.”

Our world is full of untold and unheard stories. Alireza Joday’s large-sized paintings seem like a kind of door opening into the vast reservoir of the mind. Imagination is the king of all perception. Joday says about his work: “Our loneliness develops only by remembering and bringing to life the memories that are confined deep in our mind and emotions, so that we turn to a kind of shelter which is locked to the noise outside. That is why some images are being created by investigating the inner world.”

Every day we are exposed to a giant amount of news and reports from all across the world without knowing the source mostly. In this exhibition, we can consider Zartosht Rahimi as a kind of media emerged among us. He talks about his large-sized paintings named “An Unfinished Feast”: “My paintings reflect the situation in which my environment and I are involved in. Narratives play an important role in creating a connection between my works and the audience. Reality it is the login key. The stories do not necessarily follow a specific logic, but rather like in a piece of a drama, they are a combination of imagination and reality.”

Sharyar Rezai deals with mythical heroes in his installations that can be considered a part of national identity and it is impossible to take them anywhere else. Shahryar Rezai by adapting from “Wish that Man Could Take His Home With Him” for his legend “Rostam’s Mace Suitcase” mentions: “People have left parts of themselves in immigration throughout history. It is not possible to go. It is not possible to take. We are stuck in a historical transition with a suitcase full of emptiness, full of regret, full of dreams, full of forgetfulness, and I am constantly packing it in order to stay and not to forget…”. Rezai, in his second installation named “Freedom Charter” which is adapted from the series “Death Is Inherited in our Home” is manipulating historiography and mass media productions: Ahmad Shamloo in his poetry collection “Abraham in the Fire” has given a poem to Iran Darroudi, the female painter; the theme of the poem is about the process of visualizing something, for example in painting. In the last part of the poem, Shamloo says to Darroudi: “We’ve had all the words at hand/ But we didn’t use the practical one/ Because there was not one important word in our hand/ Freedom/ We couldn’t say that/ You picture it”. This work is an attempt to portray historiography and to create a narrative of what cannot be represented.

In her installation named “The Patient StoneRoohangiz Safarinezhad tells a metaphorical story of psychological, philosophical and social phenomenon with mysteries and implications, that indicates the significance of the narratives for each individual in a society. “The Patient Stone” is the common origin of all the tales and the common psychological aspects among human beings. This common origin dates back to the pre-historical eras and the beginning of human existence: “Once upon a time there was a patient stone. Me patient. You patient”. Indicating that mostly the tales come to a happy endin that could be a reason for having hope and motivation in life, Negar Alamzadeh Gorji in her installation named “Tapesh” is dealing with such a happy ending. She says: “Hope is the oldest fetus of the world. It is a forgotten solitary inmate in the deepest part of the womb of the universe lighting up man’s darkest fears. A warming light inside the man that breaks the ice of the silence up with an amazing magic and makes the man fly. This is the magician of hope that comes from dusk till dawn till it has to come back to his ever solitary confinement and wait, wait for rebirth. A birth which is the only way for hope, the oldest fetus of the world…”.

In his two installations “When the Chairs Imitate the HedgehogsMostafa Choobtarash raises the question whether the production of historical narratives can be a substitute for the national legends: “In the ancient times, man always used to engrave or illustrate his fears, concerns, excitements, memories, news and events on the rocks or the cave walls in order to share them with people of his time and of the future. By using technology, cyberspace and the media such as television and radio, nowadays man is doing the same. The only difference is that the human creation of the past could survive until today, but today everything is changing rapidly; with the arrival of a new event, the previous news will be soon forgotten”. His work seems like an abstract configuration at first glance, but the closer one gets to it, the more one can see: Details which were invisible from the far so that the spectator start investigating the work. Also, his work is full of irony and humor which makes it so attractive for the audience.

Ali Soltani Tehrani’s installation “Memorial” shows the role and place of the audience in the narrative construction. His installation, Tehrani is dealing with what can be stored and archived in the human brain beyond the eternal layers of ideas, images and emotions like a natural and powerful force. In this sense the brain is like a palimpsest: Every time more recent ideas, images and emotions are being stored in it. They seem to be a kind of substitute that buries everything but nothing is absolutely forgotten. The ideas and emotiongs are not dead. They are just asleep. There is no desire to break up the accumulation of the eternal layers. Writing a memorial on the showcase of war images is both narrating the memories and escaping a social event that is one of the most important but most painful times for every nation. Tehrani deals with this aspect in his collaborative and multiple writings .In his installation “The Middle East ClubBabak Kazemi narrates the story of petrol and the people of the Middle East. He talks about a club which is the representative of the Middle East countries and also the indoor and outdoor events of the club where both ordinary people and boxers are frequently punching sandbags) and the result is nothing but damage and depreciation for both of them.


Asieh Salimian 2018

Factory TT encourages encounters of international intellectuals, scholars and the public with emerging Iranian artists to create possibilities to produce new bodies of work and to respond to cultural, economic, and social contexts as an essential foundation for a further development of contemporary art in Iran. Factory TT challenges the Iranian art scenes status quo. It was initiated in 2015 by Shahram Entekhabi | Asieh Salimian.


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NOTE: Factory TT is neither supported by any government, nor any political interest, ideology or religion.