Since 2010, the artivist[1] group [P]Art Collective has launched various art projects to foster conversations and exchanges of ideas about various socio-political problems.

The collective conceptualizes and organizes projects, engages local artists, and arranges follow-up events to create alternative spaces for communication and activism. [P]Art Collective’s core team consists of three artists, activists, and researchers, Neda Moridpour, Sarah Moridpour and Pouya Afshar, who have all participated in multiple projects sponsored by the group.

By turning its proposals into action, the collective’s artistic creativity represents a form of societal intervention, an opportunity not just to change the status quo but also to foster opportunities for new ideas to emerge and to develop.

The Name

The name “[P]Art Collective” refers to the new genre of “public art.” It also represents a political statement, referring to The Parthian Empire also known as the Arsacid Empire, which was a major political and cultural part of ancient Persia. It was during this era that the arts, architecture, and religious beliefs of different cultures freely blended together, an approach the collective incorporates into its work.

When and What…

It all started with our first project titled ‘Khale Suske’ (The Auntie Roach), a conversation about “herstorytelling,” memory and art in 2010. This socially engaged art project used a two hundred year old Iranian folklore story as a tool to foster dialogue among Iranian women about domestic violence and sexual assault. Khale Suske is a story about a female roach who chooses her husband based on the tool he will use to beat her. Through its retelling, the collective allowed women to use the story as a proactive method to convey their experiences with violence and rigid gender roles in Iranian society.

Original lithography of the story of Khale Suske, 18th century, Tehran National Library, Iran

Original lithography of the story of Khale Suske, 18th century, Tehran National Library, Iran

During this project, the collective gathered more than one hundred Iranian women in Iran and Los Angeles to engage in dialogue. The discussion format took its cue from the second wave western feminist notion of Consciousness-Raising (CR) sessions: all women were given equal time to speak, without interruption or deviation. Investigations and conversations about the symbols, goals, concepts and socio-cultural impacts of folklore stories were a central part of the project.

At the conclusion of the CR sessions, which were facilitated by Neda Moridpour, participants were encouraged to express their feelings by painting, writing, and doing collage work with fabric.

Khale Suske (the Auntie Roach), Tonekabon, Iran, 2010

Khale Suske (the Auntie Roach), Tonekabon, Iran, 2010

In the end, the sessions created an archive of over one hundred fabric pieces, which were sewn into a Ru-Korsi (quilt) by Iranian women living in the United States in solidarity with women in Iran. The quilt was exhibited at the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery in Santa Monica, California and was on view for one month.

‘The voided loom’ was the collective’s second project, focusing on kelardasht carpet weaving, a centuries old art form that has been neglected and is on the verge of extinction. This two-year long study, which is still in progress, has included research, community building, and a large number of interviews and stories around the aesthetic characteristics of the kelardasht carpet throughout history.

The project’s goal is not only to resuscitate this style of carpet weaving, but also to create a space for female participants to address personal issues and exchange ideas. In doing so, the project recreates the positive community benefits of carpet weaving, which united culture and emotions to create social bonds between generations of women.

Khale Suske (The Auntie Roach), Will Rogers State Park, Los Angeles, United States.

Khale Suske (The Auntie Roach), Will Rogers State Park, Los Angeles, United States.

One outcome of the project was a short film that won the second prize at the Farhang Short Film Festival in Los Angeles, and was screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on March 16th, 2012. Sarah Moridpour, the project’s founder, also created an original kelardasht carpet, designed and woven after one year of collaborating with local women in Iran.

Other artists have extended the collective’s efforts. Recently, Soroush Rezai and Pouya Afshar collaborated to create the animation series ‘Rostam in Wonderland,’ which is based on Rostam, the mythical hero of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), and tells the story of his experiences in 21st century Iran.

Participants, The Voided Loom,  Kelardasht, Iran, 2010

Participants, The Voided Loom, Kelardasht, Iran, 2010

The first episode of this series will be screened at LACMA, and has been nominated for this year’s Farhang Foundation Short Film Festival.

Conclusion

There are many socio political problems that cannot be addressed using political or economic methods, but that are also ripe for artistic solutions. [P]art Collective does its best to harness the power of art to make a positive contribution to society. Our hope is to make a small contribution to how people understand the intersection between creativity and development, art and community.

 


[1] Atrivists = artists and activists

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