Sara Makari-Aghdam: ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’

‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’ is a unique presentation of art inspired by the popular music of pre-revolutionary Iran and Anatolia. It has been gathered together by Sara Makari-Aghdam, a young North East England based curator of Azeri-Turk, Persian and English descent.

Sara was born in Stockton-on-Tees. She studied BA (hons) in History of Modern Art, Design and Film at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne (2004-07) and Masters in Curating Contemporary Design at Kingston University and the Design Museum, London (2011). While studying for her Masters, Makari-Aghdam was chosen to assist the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Curator of Contemporary Arab Art and Design, Salma Tuqan, on the Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition.

One of Sara’s earliest memories of connecting to her father’s background was discovering his Persian pop cassette tape collection from his youth. He left Iran in 1974, five years before the Islamic revolution, to study engineering in the North East of England. For many diaspora migrants these records and tapes represent what life in Iran used to be, a time when modern musicians and artists were freely allowed to express themselves.

Today Persian and Turkish pop records of this era, though scarce, have become highly collectable and an inspiration for many artists, as can be seen in the work of the artists featured in ‘Vinyl Icons’.

Sara says, “I used to ask him what the lyrics meant and was astounded at how deep the meanings were of the songs and to what lengths Persian people go to express their feelings and to tell their stories”.

The Persian singer Googoosh features heavily in the exhibition.

“People just love her: her style.  She had many looks.  The haircuts she had including her rebellious pixie cut, her many happy and sad songs and her distinct voice, the fact she danced when she sang in quite a traditional style, her politics (she’s well known as a gay icon now) and also that she was very real to the Iranian people.

“Googoosh was actually from a working class Azeri family from the North of Iran. Her father used to make her perform as a child and everyone saw her grow up quite publicly in the Pre-Revolution times”.

‘Vinyl Icons’ was mounted by Sara as a major exhibition at the Vane Gallery in Newcastle earlier this year.

The artists:

Afsoon’s ‘Fairytale Icons’ photomontages include images of iconic figures from both European and Middle Eastern culture. The artist’s nomadic life is reflected in her work, where East merges with West and the result is at once familiar and foreign, linking the themes of nostalgia and cultural hybridity, rich, yet often playful and humorous. Afsoon was born in Iran and moved to San Francisco, USA, in her late teens. She currently lives in London.

Khosrow Hassanzadeh combines pop art and over-the-top kitsch. The word Javad is used to describe Hassanzadeh’s style; as well as being a male name in the Persian language, it is used to describe an unsophisticated rural person, ‘fresh-off-the-boat’ in a big city. For Iranians this indicates something old-fashioned and laughable. Khosrow Hassanzadeh was born and currently lives in Tehran, Iran, where he works as an actor and visual artist.

Hushidar Mortezaie was commissioned to make a hand-painted bespoke gown for the exhibition. The Handpainted Whiting and Davis 1971 metal mesh purse says 'Bavar Kon' (believe)... Googoosh's song of the same title. The inspiration for his work ranges from the indigenous, nomadic, tribal peoples of Iran and Turkey, to the popular culture of the 1950s-70s – epitomized by the Iranian singer and actress, Googoosh, through to the post-revolutionary culture of the country today. Hushidar Mortezaie was born in Tehran, Iran and works as a designer and artist in Los Angeles, USA.

Malekeh Nayiny uses digital photography as a kind of ‘time machine’. Nayiny photographs demolition sites combining them with billboard advertisements, magazine covers, and mass-media images from before the Iranian revolution, as well as constructing collages from old family portraits. These are then digitally manipulated to accentuate a sense of fracture and temporal distance. Malekeh Nayiny was born in Tehran, Iran and she lives in Paris, France.

Taravat Talepasand trained in the challenging discipline of Persian miniature painting in Esfahan, Iran. Her egg tempera paintings and works on paper focus on the idea of ‘acceptable’ beauty and its relationship with art history under the guise of traditional Persian painting. She paints a present intrinsically linked to the past, easily understood by Iranians and intriguing for Westerners. Taravat Talepasand was born of Iranian parents in Eugene, USA, and lives in San Francisco, USA.


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