Life and Death in Iran: Parastou Forouhar's Subversive Art

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One November evening in 1998, Iranian intellectuals and activists Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, supporters of the democratically elected prime minister, were savagely murdered in their home in Tehran. Their devastated daughter, Berlin-based artist Parastou Forouhar, channeled her grief in the language she spoke most fluently: art -- powerful, poignant, subversive art that pulls you into its uncomfortable beauty with equal parts urgency and mesmerism. In Parastou Forouhar: Art, Life and Death in Iran, London-based writer and curator Rose Issa has gathered some of Forouhar's most provocative yet poetic work from the artist's exhibitions in Germany, exploring everything from democracy to women's rights to her parents' brutal murder.

In a way, Forouhar's work is the polar opposite of the loud, conspicuous, explicit messaging of Iran's street art. Her soft colors and fluid shapes might lull you into their surface beauty ... until you realize they depict scenes of torture and tragedy -- living proof that art doesn't have to be "street art" in order to be subversive and make compelling cultural commentary on even the most uncomfortable of subjects.

When I arrived in Germany, I was Parastou Forouhar. Somehow, over the years, I've become 'Iranian.' This enforced ethnic identification took a new turn with the assassination of my parents in their home in Tehran. My efforts to investigate this crime had a great impact on my personal and artistic sensibilities. Political correctness and democratic coexistence lost their meaning in my daily life. As a result, I have tried to distill this conflict of displacement and transfer of meaning, turning it into a source of creativity. --Parastou Forouhar

Images: Parastou Forouhar, courtesy of Saqi Books.

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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