Visual & Media
February 25 – March 1, 2013
Experimental Gallery, Olive Tjaden Hall
In October 1971, the Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi, in order to celebrate 2500 years of the Persian civilization, threw what came to be described then as the most ‘lavish banquet in modern history’. A year later, Persepolis, the site of the infamous dinner, played host to yet another contentious event, the 6th Shiraz-Persepolis Arts Festival. Held within and around the ruins of the historic ancient city of Persepolis, the 1972 show went on to become the annual event’s most controversial edition to date, its notoriety rooted in its extremely avant-gardist programming. Until the Iranian revolution brought all cultural activities to an abrupt halt in 1977, the festival was noted for bringing the most avant-garde of the avant-garde to Persepolis, Iannis Xenakis, Peter Brook, Joseph Chaikin to name just a few and in 1972 it featured the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, John Cage and Stockhausen among other artists.
The Persepolis Project is based on the recollection of the Cunningham Dance Company’s experiences at the 1972 Persepolis show, which recount one particular episode when their props (Andy Warhol’s ‘Silver Cloud’ balloons) were stored by festival personnel in the same rooms as the Shah’s machine guns. The ubiquitous presence of the Shah’s military at the festival did not go unnoticed and yet, at that point caused little alarm in the festival’s participants. Later however, the question of whether or not to participate at future festivals at Persepolis became a point of contention for all artists involved and a cultural boycott marred the festival in its final years. The Persepolis Project is not about the Shah’s megalomania, or the sad follies of his regime, instead it is about the ever-present thread that binds art to power, the realization of which is always a little jarring.