- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 4, 2003 

Freedom of Expression: Art exhibit shows Iranian women's press for liberation

The fresh air of freedom is blowing through an open door for some women in Iran, whose breath of liberation is felt in an art exhibit opened last week in Yerevan.

The creator of "Fresh Air" Mahmaz Pasikhani, is from the "30+" group of Persian artists whose exhibition has been in place at Hayart cultural center in Yerevan. That group was created in 2000 and it is the first post-revolution painters group of such modern genres of art.

"When you want fresh air, first of all you open a door," Mahmaz says. "Women, pictured on the door, conquered that open door, which is regarded as their striving for freedom and independence. This door and the frame are taken from an old house and they symbolize traditions. It means that women must stay at home and take care of children and do the cooking.

"The more you move away from Tehran, the more women are pressed. But these days women stood up and want to become equal with men. Comparing with previous generations today there are more places for women's activities in Iran. The fact that I and many women came here and organized exhibitions means many things. Now we are in the process of passing through that door."

The "30+" group, most of which are females, indicates that in Iran women seek freedom more than men.

Works of many authors are titled as "Untitled"; those works represent public problems. Untitled is Shahnaz Zehtab's blue triangle pictured on the floor. In the center of that triangle there are small statues of blue legs symbolizing nationals and directed upwards to the corner of that triangle, where a chair is placed symbolizing authorities. Visitors were pleased not only with the idea but also with consistency of blue legs and old-fashioned chair in the structure of that triangle, with edges covered with traces leading to the chair and again returning. An inscription completes the message: "Is this somebody's place? Does the truth lie in the fact that this is somebody's place? Or it is a shadow of somebody's place?" And the message is meant to suggest that the authorities are transient like the footsteps.

"We are the first group of artists that united and wants to represent art which is out of ideologies and pathos," mentions Shahnaz. "We are in opposition to State-sponsored art."

The installation of Hadi Jamal represents a blade of an electrical saw hung from the ceiling under which is a stack of white fingers. But the piece is spared a gruesome effect because instead of blood the fingers are surrounded by white medical cotton so that the work doesn't directly criticize violence but moreso symbolizes a striving for creative freedom.

Several works are made with the help of electronics and sound effects.

Fereidoon Omidi presented two TVs. A woman on the screen of one of the TV monitors talks with a man who is on the screen of the second TV. Their conversation however is deafened by the loud sounds of the noisy streets of a city coming from the background. The demand of communication between people is wrecked by the pressure of the big city.

"There is much in common between these works and the works of Armenian artists," says artist Nazareth Karoyan. "I don't mean mainly thematic similarities but similarities of rhythm, dynamics, usage of technologies and combination of mobile and immobile. And this is not so much regional but temporal similarities."

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On Monday journalists met outside the National Assembly to protest a proposed new media law. Among the contentious points of the draft is a stipulation that media outlets must reveal the sources of their financing.



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