Twins, Grandmothers and Rides on the Tehran Metro

Step aside Gilbert and George, go home Olsen twins, there is a new awesome duo in town:
The 30 year old twins, Niyaz and Nesa Azadikhah.

Jorjani Gallery in Tehran is currently exhibiting a site-specific installation by the duo named “Every Beginning is But a Continuation”. It is a thought-provoking installation piece mixing video, sound recordings, melodics, drawings. It creates a unique ambiance and space, which to me illustrates the kinder side of ageing.

10423830_10152322530743621_1178352009522650759_nI am delighted to see they are bringing their talents together for an all-encompassing, cultural experience. Nesa with her ear for melodics and Niyaz with her eye for human behaviour, will surely deliver an experience to be remembered. For this exhibit, the duo combine videos of their grandmother, eating fruit, telling her story, to melodic tunes and apt background sounds. They place objects she owned (for example her cane and sewing machine) together with still life drawings and presentations of fruit she consumes. Naturally, fruit as the classic symbol of deterioration and ageing is very apt but the juxtaposition with her possessions, voice and video is a heart-stompingly nostalgic affair. It makes for a fabulous rethink of ageing, love and elders.

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Photos of exhibit courtesy of Reihane Taravati 

In some ways, this current exhibition is a natural continuation of Niyaz drawing inspiration from her immediate surroundings. In fact, I first came across her work at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde in Dubai. This exhibit in Dubai helped me answer a question people often ask and for which I find it difficult to find a good response. “What is Tehran like?” For me, it is a city in most ways similar to any of the other big metropolises of the world, Sao Paolo, Seoul or Mumbai. Taxis, pollution, urban youth, metros. But what Niyaz’s work helps me conclude is that what makes the difference is the subtleties.

The subtle differences in human behaviour. How people speak to the man selling newspapers on the side of the street, how passers-by behave towards beggars, what the children carry in their hands, how the elderly conduct themselves in public, how the population behave on the metro.

20120213_AZADIKHAH-Niyaz-Lying-and-Gossiping-is-the-Biggest-Sin Niyaz-Azadikhah-Line-1-sIn her video animation series “What Lies Beneath I”,  Niyaz’s observant eye catches these subtleties and tells the tale of her society through observing and illustrating with her animated videos the women on the Tehran metro. The animation piece Line 1 (see still above) features a “street seller” in the women’s section of the Tehran metro. How the people react to the colourful underwear she presents, and the very fact of her presence in this surrounding says so much about the society in which it is based.

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After all it is the simplest of experiences, street sellers, metro rides, a grandmothers’ words that tell the biggest tales of all.

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