Artist Mojdeh Abkar (26) is guiding us through the cultural scene in Tehran. Mojdeh recently graduated from a Fine Art master at Luca School of Arts Brussels and did her bachelor in the same subject back in her country, at the Art university of Tehran.
How do you define yourself?
I don’t know if I can and want to define myself, it seems scary to put definitions on yourself, but I can give some information about myself personally and professionally (they overlap anyway). I am an Iranian artist who paints out of her memory. My paintings mostly come from the found images and I mix them with my own memory that the founded image reminds me of. I am very interested in the imagery of different cultures to compare them and to discover the edges. I am a calm and solitary person and many other adjectives that I can relate to me but they are all changeable by time as I have understood.
What does ‘culture’ mean to you?
To me culture is (a layered) identity, where we find ourselves identical to other people and their behaviour. It is not a fixed entity though; it is in a perpetual process of being.
What kind of added value culture gives you?
I think the value goes to my work when I get my inspiration out of different cultures especially of my own. When I see the difference and overlaps between cultures both geographically and historically and I work with them.
Being a cultural professional is… both rewarding and frustrating!
What is the role of culture in your country?
Iran has a complicated cultural situation. Iranian Novelist Goli Taraghi illustrates Iranian cultural hybridity as an axe that its head and its tail do not match; the head is made in modern era but its tail belongs to the ancient era. The role of the culture in Iran has both the traditional and contemporary aspects. And the traditional forms are normally more regarded by people.
Can you sketch the cultural scene in your city?
Well in my own experiance of culture there are about 150 licensed art galleries in Tehran alone and of those, 30 are very active in finding new talents and holding regular exhibitions of contemporary Iranian art and introducing them to different art fairs specially in Emirates. Unfortunately you can not get in easily (almost impossible if you don’t have certain qualities to sell) but it is better than nothing of course.
How did you end up in this city? Why did you choose to work in this city?
I don’t feel belong to any city yet and I don’t think I will ever do.
How is it for you to work in this cultural scene?
Well I did not try to be part of the Iranian cultural scene in Tehran as soon as I realised I should change for that! But in Brussels I have found that there are more possibilities for young artists to show and talk about their work.
How can you define the position of the cultural professional in your city?
Speaking of the galleries in Iran, there are enormous emphasize on the Iranianness and being a part of middle-eastern exotic culture in cultural representation to gain recognition which I find problematic. It is the repetition of the old story of orient and occident.
How do you see the future for yourself as a cultural professional in your city, are there any opportunities here? And why?
I see more opportunities outside of my country personally, because basically I don’t accept the system there to follow and I don’t apply to my art work here as well and I don’t feel the pressure to. It is easier here to build up an artistic career without sacrifices or pretention.
Are there initiatives in your country that help cultural professionals/artists at the beginning of their career?
There are some people helping young artists but it is mainly showing them how to work to be able to fit within the system. Therefore yes there are helpers but the decision is do you want such career?!
Did you do residency/internship/studies outside of your country? If yes, what differences did you see?
I studied master in Belgium. I saw many differences; although we had teachers in Iran who had studied in western countries I still can say for sure that we were far away from the international art scenes. There were many symposiums, Biennials and other events which related us to the international artists, but were not efficient I would say or better to say I am not sure why!
What tips can you give to other young cultural professionals?
Be yourself and create or represent what you think it is worthwhile, don’t change for others.
Thanks a lot Mojdeh!!