Saturday, July 11, 2009

Venice Biennale 2009 - East-West Divan Artists from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan

Source: Nafas Art Magazine

He who knows himself and others
Here will also see,
That the East and West, like brothers,
Parted ne'er shall be.

Thoughtfully to float for ever
'Tween two worlds, be man's endeavour!
So between the East and West
To revolve, be my behest!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
West-Östlicher Divan (1819)

Turquoise Mountain presents East-West Divan: Contemporary Art from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan during the 53rd International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition includes recent works by ten artists from three countries, better known in the West for stereotypes of terrorism and Islamic extremism than for their rich artistic heritage and vibrant contemporary cultures.

East-West Divan challenges these negative perceptions with works by both emerging and established artists, who are engaged in an ongoing dialogue between the artistic traditions of East and West. Nowhere is this dialogue more present than in the grand architecture and decorative traditions of Venice, whose lucrative trade routes with the East produced some of the most spectacular fusions of Eastern and Western art and architecture.

East-West Divan meditates upon the links between the artistic traditions of Venice and the Persian artistic heritage shared by all three countries in this exhibition. The exhibition includes new works of art responding to traditions such as miniature painting, calligraphy and Islamic geometric design, revealing how contemporary artists, far from being overburdened by an ‘anxiety of influence’ from their rich cultural past, have found new ways to challenge and transform this cultural inheritance.

Playing with a broad range of references which bring together Pop art and Shi’ite shrines, modernist abstraction and Islamic architecture, the exhibition reflects on how culture and history can co-exist with today’s globalised, melting pot society. The title of the exhibition is taken from a collection of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, inspired by the Persian poet Hafez, and refers to the ‘divan’ or council chamber, as a physical symbol of the coming together of different cultures.

East-West Divan presents a subtle and complex meditation upon the realities and perceptions of contemporary life, history and politics in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, unraveling – just a little - the tightly knotted relationship between East and West.

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