Afrang Malekian: Keeping up with the Iranians

’Aeroponic’ – root systems nourished by air – Acts is the name given to the nomadic Dutch Art Institute’s final Kitchen presentations. Each participant addresses one question, as a practice of engagement.

Here you will find the documentation of Afrang Malekian's presentation as filmed by Baha Görkem Yalım. The written report is by Hubert Gromny and it includes a summary of the comments by esteemed guest respondents. 




Keeping up with the Iranians

Afrang's question: A girl can leave Iran, but can Iran leave a girl the fuck alone?

Afrang's introduction: Shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the new leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, banned music in Iran, equating it to opium. As a result, many artists relocated to Los Angeles to pursue their artistry in exile. Through illegal sound distribution, Iranian and Western music produced abroad found its way back to Iran which made its rise to mainstream culture possible. Repression has made music the signifier of secret collectivity and freedom—a catalyst for realizing dreams. Keeping Up with the Iranians emerges from these musical relations, starring world-famous singer Setareh and renowned choreographer Dancing Dina visiting all the way from Los Angeles, California.

See you on the dancefloor!

Hubert's report: Audience enters the dark space with a stage plunged in the violet light. Dancing Dina enters the stage accompanied with music and applause from the audience. She wears long, blonde wig, sunglasses, high heels and a skirt. She begin to narrate her story of growing in Teheran and of her fascination with both Iranian and North-American singers. The narrative has a nostalgic feeling and invites the listeners to the adolescent world of CD’s burned by a cousin and dancing on the carpet to the music of pop stars streamed by TV channels. These encounters are described as basis to build teenage dreams, carried by the songs to the adulthood. As such the narrative is evocative of the world gone but still present somewhere else. With playing Madonna’s “Hang Up” Dancing Dina invites audience to the stage to dance together. When the song finishes Dancing Dina continues her narrative speaking about how she moved to Los Angeles and started to work with music production. Soon, during the pause, Afrang enters the stage in white clothes accompanied by Bandari music (Dambuli DImbol). Afrang energetically start to organize audience into two groups and instructs them with a simple choreography, teaching how to move to the songs play. “That is how you dance with Iranians”. Afrang and Dina leave the space after animating the audience, who stay a bit longer and enjoy the music until it stops. Iranian singers mentioned in the presentation: Moein, Shohreh Solati, Andy, Leila Fourouhar.

Chiara Figone commented on the predicament of identity and the way the presentation addressed it in a playful way. This predicament is based on the exhaustion and labor of working with the identity and for that introducing playfulness is a valuable intervention.  The presentation engaged with repurposing the identity by extending it to involve bodies of the audience in the process. This gesture was important as it allowed to grasp specificity of the questions of identity thematizes in the presentation but also reflect on the fact that similar questions are formulated in many different places by different people. For that matter Chiara appreciated also attention to details within the presentation, which is important to create other than stereotypical ways of access to the question of identity.

Momtaza Mehri pointed out the embodied character of the presentation and shared her own interest in the theme of histories of displacement, exile and role pop stars play for diasporic communities. As an example how pop stars are able to capture collective imagination, Momtaza spoke about the recent death of the Somali singer Khadro Dahir as a moment which mobilized exchange between her geographically scattered audiences. In the presentation, inclusion of storytelling reflecting on childhood memories makes sadness of displacement to be tangible but also humorous and beautiful at the same time. Referring to Iranian intellectuals such as Jalal Al-e-Ahmed and Ali Shariati, Momtaza spoke about complexity and entanglements of the presence of Western culture in the Iranian context. In juxtaposition to more sociological takes on obsession with the West, the performance by focusing on the formative effect of popular culture for a child was speaking more about loves lost and hidden, for which a pop star becomes more than just a cultural figure.

Phanuel Antwi was struck by the way the presentation played with illegality. Description of the work invites already to think of sound distribution, copyright and other emergencies illegality can facilitate, as if it was precisely because of illegality that certain things are being formulated and create their own language. Illegality in this sense is not only a capture system. Usually oppression and repression stands for what is not possible, but in a way they enable something to emerge. This was a fascinating part of the presentation how certain ideas and practices were shown as creating other possibilities for life. The performance managed also to humorously flip the script of what kind of narratives are expected from diasporas.

About Afrang Nordlöf Malekian

Afrang Malekian's "Keeping up with the Iranians" was presented before live audience at the Centrale Fies, Dro, Italy on July 14th.

Find the overview of all 24 AEROPONIC ACTS 2022 here: tuttə (le) rottə - all (the) ways: unfixed