A Cinétract by other means: Notes from Tehran: from Month to Month

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Cinétracts by Other Means: Notes from Tehran

Session JUNE 17, 2015, 10:00 - 17:30

Tutors: Kodwo Eshun, Doreen Mende

Guest-Tutor: Tirdad Zolghadr, Ramallah

During his one-day seminar, Zolghadr will use the leitmotif of “Tehran” to offer an overview of his practice as curator & writer. On the one hand, this will offer an opportunity to trace commonalities and differences pertaining to curating and fiction. On the other, it will allow us to revisit issues of international representation pertaining to Iran in particular, and the contemporary art circuit in general.

The seminar will contrast more recent curatorial premises with positions that were key to Zolghadr’s practice over a decade ago. Materials will include publications by the SHAHRZAD collective and the exhibition project Ethnic Marketing (Kunsthalle Geneva 2004 / various Tehran venues 2006). After lunch, the seminar will continue with two documentary films by Zolghadr: Tehran 1380 (with Solmaz Shahbazi, 2001, 45 min) and Tropical Modernism (with Golmohamad Rahati, 2005, 25 min). We will read and discuss the opening sections of Zolghadr’s novel Plot (2012).

This seminar will conclude the year-long project A Cinétract by Other Means. Notes From Tehran. Using the proposals and provocations from Zolghadr’s network of practices as a platform, we will engage with the aspirations ambivalences and ambiguities of modes of address, engagement, reflexivity and irony. Through an encounter with Zolghadr’s criticism, filmmaking and fiction, the seminar engages with the contemporary moment as it takes shape in 2005, the moment that marks the end of the ‘reform era’ as it plays itself out within and beyond Iran.

The seminar address methodologies for developing modes of distanciation from the artistic desire for the unfamiliar while simultaneously working out methods for engaging with the condition of implication within these processes. The second part of the seminar invites students to contribute ideas from individual projects with regard to the forms and limits of knowing and unknowing that have emerged throughout A Cinétract by Other Means. Notes From Tehran.

Required reading:

Tirdad Zolghadr, Plot, 2012, pp. 11–17.

Further reading:

Rachel Moore 'Marketing Alterity,' in: Lucien Taylor (ed.), Visualizing Theory: Selected Essays from V.A.R.1990–1994, 1994, pp.126–139.

Seminar Wednesday MAY 20, 2015, 10:00 - 17:30


Tutors: Kodwo Eshun & Doreen Mende

Guest-Tutor: Sandra Schäfer, Berlin

The next session will engage with the term oikopolitics as it continues to resonate from the project’s trip to Tehran, through work by Berlin-based filmmaker and artist Sandra Schäfer and readings of texts by theorists Melinda Cooper and Stuart Hall.

 In the first part, Sandra will present elements from her cinematic research on the Iranian Revolution. This will include a presentation of her multi-part, long-term project Kabul/Tehran 1979ff (2002–ongoing) that discusses conditions of transregionality articulated between Tehran, Kabul, Istanbul, Berlin, London and Beirut. Schäfer’s conversations with photographer Hengameh Golestan on the role of photography during the Iranian Revolution and film-maker Rakshan Bani-Etemad on conditions of production for filmmaking are of special relevance for the seminar.

In the second part, after lunch, we will discuss the notion of oikopolitics through Melinda Cooper’s text The Law of the Household (2012). Cooper’s text analyses Foucault’s journeys to Iran before and during the Revolution in late 1978 and early 1979 and draws connections between his articles on political Islam, his lectures on neoliberalism and writings on the ethics of the self in ancient Greece. Cooper indicates the ways in which Foucault’s rediscovery of the Greek notion of oikonomia or the law of the household emerges in response to neoliberal economics and revolutionary Islam’s fixation on the sexual politics of domestic space.

 Episode 11 of The Owl’s Legacy, Chris Marker’s thirteen part television series (1989), offers insights into the law of the household as it was practiced in ancient Greece. The writings, statements, and films produced at this time by American feminist Kate Millett and the French feminists Sylvina Boissonnas, Antoinette Fouque and Helène Cixous, each of whom travelled or engaged with Iran during the early days of the Revolution, provide engagements with the global implications of the political transformation of 1979.

At the end of the 1970s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher instigated the neoliberal programme of Thatcherism and Reaganism in the USA and the UK. We will discuss the neoliberalization in relation to the notion of oikopolitics through a reading of Stuart Hall’s essay The Great Moving Right Show (1979) which introduced the notion of authoritarian populism. As suggested by the political analyst Matin Ghaffarian in his lecture in Tehran, authoritarian populism remains useful for understanding the contemporary politics of Ahmedinajadism in Iran. It allows us to elaborate continuities and discontinuities between 1979 and present day transformations of life and labour under global conditions of neoliberalism.

Required reading:

Hélène Cixous: ‘Poesie und Politik – Poesie ist Politik?,’ in: Weiblichkeit in der Schrift, merve Verlag, Berlin, 1980, p. 7–21. Translation from German of an excerpt from “Eine Frage von Schleier und Schürzen”, p. 10–11. (see attached PDF)

Melinda Cooper, ‘The Law of the Household: Foucault, Neoliberalism and the Iranian Revolution,’ in: Vanessa Lemm, Miguel Vatter (Eds.), The Government of Life: Foucault, Biopolitics and Neoliberalism, New York: Fordham University Press, 2014, pp. 29–58. (see attached PDF)

Stuart Hall, ‘The Great Moving Right Show,’ in: Marxism Today, 1979.

Sandra Schäfer and Madeleine von Bernstorff, The Ladies, http://www.mazefilm.de/english/ladies.php

Sandra Schäfer, ‘on the set 1978ff,’ in: metroZones (Eds.), Faith is the Place, the Urban cultures of Global Prayers, metroZones 11, b_books, 2012, 256–265. http://www.mazefilm.de/bilder/setoff.pdf

des femmes filment (Sylvina Boissonnas, Antoinette Fouque, et al.), Mouvement de libération des femmes iraniennes – année zero, March 1979

English version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxGYLk92edY

Declaration of Iranian documentary filmmakers, June 17, 2009 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3bvWRZX-7o

Required watching:

Chris Marker: ‘Episode 11: Misogyny or the Snares of Desire,’ L’ Heritage de la Chouette/ The Owl’s Legacy http://gorgomancy.net/

Additional watching:

Interview with Rakshan Bani-Etemad after her Screening Ruz-e gar-e ma (Our Times) during the Second Take film festival in Kabul, 2008


Seminar Wednesday February 25, 2015, 10.00 to 17.30

Nuclear politics

Tutors: Doreen Mende and Kodwo Eshun by Skype

Guest Tutors: Marcel Dickhage and Cathleen Schuster

We will start the session with a screening of Unfinished Business, 2009 which will be presented by the artists Cathleen Schuster and Marcel Dickhage. Unfinished Business explores the entanglement of individual biographies with nuclear energy politics in the context of Iran before and during the revolution of 1979. The video departs from photographs of a team of West-German engineers, one of which was Schuster’s father, that worked on the construction site of Iran’s first nuclear plant near the city of Bushehr in the South-West of Iran. Unfinished Business edits this family archive with archival reportage and contemporary reflections, creating a space to enter the geopolitical dimension of nuclearity via the construction of an intergenerational contract by artistic means. Schuster and Dickhage will discuss their methods and modes of research for translating transnational complexity into a concrete and conceptual narrative. These approaches resonate with the work of the American artist and theorist Allan Sekula. We will look at his early work Aerospace Folktales, 1973, which combines images, recorded voices of his father and mother and a commentary to constitute what he called a ‘disassembled movie’. Aerospace Folktales therefore suggests a way for us to engage with our central artistic question: how to practice cinema by other means.

After lunch, we will discuss texts that develop differing scales of nuclear politics. On 1st November 2014, The Economist magazine published an issue entitled ‘The revolution is over’ that included a Special Report on Iran that analysed the ongoing so-called ‘nuclear talks’ between the P5+1 countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran as a political platform linked to the renegotiation of global economic trade relations. We will compare the neoliberal position of The Economist with the writings of Pervez Hoodbhoy, the Pakistan-based nuclear physicist whose journalism offers a critical insight into the conjunction of nuclear politics and political Islam instituted during 1978 to 1979 that positions Iran within the economic context of the global Cold War. Both of these texts can be read in relation to the essays published by French philosopher Michel Foucault who visited Iran in 1978 and 1979, meeting and discussing and writing as the Islamic revolution was unfolding. Foucault developed the format of ‘un reportage d'idées’ or a reportage of ideas that emerges from an analysis of what people think in relation to an analysis of what happens during a moment of political upheaval. Such an approach suggests methods for combining the popular with the scientific with the investigative, the mode of the travel report with the work of thought with the outsider perspectives.

Session 4 will conclude with a discussion on practical questions for our journey to Tehran in April 2015. This is your opportunity to articulate all concerns and queries that you may have concerning all aspects of the trip.  

Marcel Dickhage and Cathleen Schuster have lived and worked together as artists in Berlin since 2001. Their works emerge from a conceptual approach in time-based media that engages with archives and text/image relations. www.titreprovisoire.de

Required Watching:

Cathleen Schuster, Unfinished Business, 2009, 12min. https://vimeo.com/28459585

Required Reading:

Oliver August et al. ‘The revolution is over,’ in: The Economist, November 1, 2014, pp. 3–16. (excerpts)

The Economist (eds.), ‘Diplomatic Spin,’ in: Middle East and Africa (section), November 1, 2014, p. 36.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, ‘Myth-Building: The “Islamic” Bomb,’ in: Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science (ed.), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 1993. (excerpts) http://www.hraicjk.org/the_islamic_bomb.html

Michel Foucault, ‘Iran: The Spirit of a World Without Spirit,’ in: Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.) Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, 2005, pp.250–260. (excerpts)

Allan Sekula, ‘Aerospace Folktales,’ in: Photography Against the Grain, Essay and Photo Works 1973–1983, 1984, pp.105–164. (photo essay)

Allan Sekula speaks with Carles Guerra, ‘Found Paintings, Disassembled Movies, World Images,’ in: Marie Muracciole and Benjamin J. Young (eds.), Grey Room, No. 55, pp.130–141.

Additional Reading:

‘Foucault and His Critics – an Annotated Translation,’ in: Janet Afray and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.) Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, 2005, pp.179–277.

Gabrielle Hecht, ‘Nuclear Ontologies, De-provincializing the Cold War, and Postcolonial Technopolitics’, in: Mayer, M. (ed.), Theory Talks: Theory Talk #64, Monday, July 14, 2014. http://www.theory-talks.org/2014/07/theory-talk-64.html

Interview with Shampa Biswas about her book Nuclear Desire: Power and the Postcolonial Nuclear Order, published on Jadaliyya, November 5, 2014. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/19855/new-texts-out-now_shampa-biswas-nuclear-desire_pow

Seminar Wednesday January 21, 2015, 9:00- 17:30


Tutors: Doreen Mende, Kodwo Eshun and guest tutor Morad Montazami

The Oil Superego – The January session will start with a lecture by writer and curator Morad Montazami that elaborates upon his concept of the ʻoil superegoʼ in relation to artistic forms in modern Iran. The lecture explores the ways in which key films by Ebrahim Golestan and Parviz Kimiavi and paintings by Bahman Mohassess and Behjat Sadr reveal the tension between modernization and modernity in which classical traditions of Persian poetry and iconology undergo hybridisation and mutation in an encounter with oil as promise and calamity that connects industrial process with ecological disaster and social upheaval and political uprising. Following the lecture, Morad will unfold the research process of the exhibition 'Unedited History: Iran 1960-2014ʼ at the Musee dʼ Art Moderne de la Ville Paris from May to August 2014 which he co-curated with Catherine David, Odile Burluraux, Narmine Sadeg and Vali Mahlouji. Morad will analyse the ways in which his research into Iranian modernisms informed the collaborative practice of the Unedited History exhibition. This will lead to a wider discussion on how scholarly research in art history and art theory informs curatorial practice and vice versa.

Oilʻs schizophrenic presence – After lunch, we will watch and analyse ʻThe Wave, the Coral and the Granite' (1962, 40min) by Ebrahim Golestan. As Morad Montazami argues, Golestanʻs film ʻexpertly summarises the tensions and contradictions at work in the oil superego in Iran between the 1950s and 1970s: through its both epic and didactic vocal range, its both emancipatory and absolutist willpower, its literary integrity testing an economic system where the subject risks losing control...ʻ
The supreme narration lube – In the final section of the January seminar, we will read sections from ʻCyclonopediaʼ by Reza Negarastani. We will discuss the production and mobilisation of theoretical fictions as a means of speculating with the geomaterial agency of oil. What emerges if we take seriously Hamid Parsaniʼs injunction to ʻcollapse all manifest policies and ideologies onto the Tellurian narratives of oil seepageʼ? If we say that ʻmanifest politics and ideologiesʼ are the evident and visible politics of energy, the economy and the so-called War on Terror, of OPEC and the Seven Sisters, of the policies of governments and multinational corporations that make sense of the movement of oil through pipelines across the world, then what becomes thinkable when these ideologies become submerged within Tellurian narratives? What are Tellurian narratives and how can we mobilise them? What happens when manifest policies no longer have a guaranteed explanatory power over the latent undercurrents of petropolitics? When the manifest operates on the same level as the hidden logics of petroleum?

Morad Montazami is adjunct research-curator at Tate Modern, for the Middle East and North Africa, supported by the Iran Heritage Foundation. He has been teaching art theory in French art schools (Bourges, Lyon, Toulouse). He is the author of several articles and essays on artists such as Farid Belkahia, Bahman Mohassess, Davood Emdadian, Jordi Colomer, Eric Baudelaire, Jeremy Deller, Francis Alÿs, Zineb Sedira, Allan Sekula, Walid Raad… He is the editor in chief of the French journal
Zamân, which deals with Middle Eastern studies, visual culture and contemporary art (www.zaman-paper.com)

Required Reading

Morad Montazami, Oil Superego, in: Montazami et al. (eds.) Unedited History Iran 1960-2014, Rome, 2014/15, pp. 208-211.

Reza Negarastani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, 2008, re: press books, pp. 13-14, 15-21, 25-28, 69-72.

Kodwo Eshun, Notes on Cyclonopedia, 2015

Required Watching

Ralph Keen, Persian Story, 1951, 20.45min

Parviz Kimiavi, Deux ou trois choses que je sais de lʼIran,12 min. (5 screen video installation made for the exhibition Unedited History)

Further Reading / Watching

Mona Damluji, Documenting the Modern Oil City: Cinematic Urbanism in Anglo-Iranianʼs Persian Story, Ars Orientalis 42, October 2012.

Mona Damluji, Petrofilms and the Image World of Middle Eastern Oil forthcoming in Subterranean Estates: Life worlds of Oil and Gas.

Ebrahim Golestan, Yek atash [A Fire], 1961, 23.30min.

Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy, 2008.

Ashkan Sepahvand, Introduction to Ray from Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain Vapor Ray, edited by Katrin Klingan, Ashkan Sephavand, Christoph Rosol, Bernd M. Scherer, The MIT Press Haus der Kulturen der Welt 2014, pp. 4-7

Eugene Thacker, Black Infinity; or, Oil discovers Humans, from Leper Creativity: Cyclonopedia Symposium, edited by Ed Keller, Nicola Masciandaro & Eugene Thacker, Punctum Books 2012, pp. 173-180.

BBC Unedited History exhibition report (farsi voice-over but visually efficient)

Photo-report of the exhibition Unedited History including the three chronological sequences, http://universes-inuniverse. org/eng/nafas/articles/2014/unedited_history_iran

Unedited History Exhibition review, http://www.reorientmag.com/2014/09/iran-unedited-history/

Seminar Wednesday December 10, 2014, 10:00 - 17:30

Tutors: Doreen Mende, Kodwo Eshun

Group Session

The December group-session will analyse episodes from the global afterlives of the coup d'état orchestrated by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service or MI6 and America's Central Intelligence Agency against Mohammed Mossadeq, the socialist Prime Minister of Iran on 19 August 1953. The strategic aim of the coup d'etat was to establish a pro-American and pro-British absolute monarchy by installing the figure of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi as the King or Shah of Iran. On June 2 1967, Iranian and German students demonstrated against the state-visit by the Shah and Queen Farah Pahlavi to West Berlin; police shot and killed student activist Benno Ohnesorg, triggering a process of radicalization in the German student movement that led to the formation of the Rote Armee Fraktion or Red Army Fraction and the militant 2nd June Movement who named themselves after the events of 2nd June.

The session is organized around three elements:

First, we will read a text on the global dimension of the August 1953 coup by cultural historian Shiva Balaghi. Please read the text with the following points in mind: Can the coup be understood as a symptom for the binary world-order of the global Cold War? What did the coup produce? What did the coup mean for Iran's oil resources? In which ways does the coup continue to radiate historically into the present? How can we understand the expressions 'silenced histories' and 'sanitized autobiographies'? What do these terms demand from us?

Second, we will discuss some of the visual and conceptual methods of the documentary-puzzle computer game The Cat and the Coup, conceived by Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad in 2011. http://www.thecatandthecoup.com/ The Cat and the Coup stages the manipulations and the implications of the coup of August 1953 through the figure of a cat that disturbs files that are placed on shelves on Mossadeq's library. All students in the session should, if possible download, install and play The Cat and The Coup. A group of students, numbering two or three, should nominate themselves to demonstrate the stages of the gameplay of The Cat and the Coup to the tutors and the rest of the group. This group will be responsible for leading the second phase of the session. This demonstration will serve as a basis for a group discussion around the figurative, ludic and scenographic strategies deployed by the actionable images of The Cat and the Coup.

Third, we will compare sequences from four moving image works that deploy specific visual methods for engaging with the implications of the events of June 1967. Made in the middle of the political turbulence of 1967, Die Worte des Vorsitzenden or The Words of the Chairman (Harun Farocki, 1967) compresses multiple discourses of left wing militancy into an epic of poetic and humorous intensity. The Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel, 2008) fictionalizes the events of 1967 into a crude melodrama of action and reaction. On the set of 1978ff (Sandra Schäfer, 2011) revisits the events of 1967 in order to construct a relational geography of postwar Iranian modernity. And finally, we will look at a gif created by Mariana Silva from a key scene in The Words of the Chairman as an illustration for Beginnings, a text by Hito Steyerl published in the special issue of e-flux journal 59 11/2014 devoted to the work of Harun Farocki. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/beginnings/


Shiva Balaghi: 'Silenced Histories and Sanitized Autobiographies: The 1953 CIA Coup in Iran,' in: Biography, Volume 36, Number 1, Winter 2013, pp. 71–96. (See attached)


Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad, The Cat and the Coup, 2011

The Cat and the Coup: Walkthrough and Description, 2011, 8:08min

Harun Farocki, Die Worte des Vorsitzenden/The Words of The Chairman, 1967

Uli Edel, The Baader Meinhof Complex, 2008
Session Sequence: 0:00–5:21

Sandra Schäfer, On the set of 1978ff, 2011
Session Sequence: 04:29–10:03

Mariana Silva, gif from The Words of The Chairman, e-flux journal 59 11/2014 http://www.e-flux.com/journal/beginnings/

Further Watching

Die Worte des Vorsitzenden/ The Words of The Chairman,
The Baader Meinhof Complex
On the set of 1978ff in their entirety.

Seminar Wednesday November 5, 2014, 2PM to 5.30PM

Tutors: Doreen Mende, Kodwo Eshun, Anjalika Sagar

Group Session

The first session of 'Cinétracts by Other Means. Notes from Tehran' consists of two parts: First, we will discuss the text 'On Re-materialization of the Cinematographic Apparatus' by Pavle Levi that will introduce some approaches to a 'cinema by other means' as proposed by the author as the following: cinema by other means is 'the practice of positing cinema as a system of relations directly inspired by the workings of the film apparatus, but evoked through the material and technological properties of the originally nonfilmic media.' It is recommended to read attentively the various proposals made in the text that range from Lettrist hyper-graphics, written and radio-films, film-poems, future films, to films without film, and 'paracinematic' practices (Jonathan Walley) to help to open up the space for a cinematic thinking. Furthermore, it is recommended to reflect on the various approaches, and to think which of these approaches seem most useful for the respective reader's practice. We will process and need this kind of thinking to develop methodologies for making 'cinétracts' as described in the general concept paper of the 'cinétract'-project. The second part will consist of a screening for discussion of A Journey Through Iranian Cinema With Mark Cousins that has been conceived in discussion with the Iranian filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht, which will introduce the geopolitics of cinema in relation to an Iranian modernity.
This first session in two parts will address the parameters of the project-at-large by posing the question of methodology and conditions of production in relation to the global topicality of Iranian modernity as the articulated frame of our project, before we will enter close-readings of 'petro-politics,' 'nuclear politics' and 'oikopolitics' as permanently resonating threads throughout the year-long project.

Thursday November 6, 2014

9.30AM to 5PM

Tutorials with tutors