Thursday, December 31, 2009

Green Horizon!

I ran into the field,
Dallas, that ugly giant corpse, was a shadow in a distance.

I ran and ran
Letting the mud have a fight with my boots,
Miles of unreachable horizon and the muddiest ranch on earth!

I ran to the taste of blood on my lips,
To the weeping of my lungs!

I ran to that unreachable horizon,
To maybe find something green in this muddy farm!

I ran and ran to the unreachable horizon,
My lips bled,
My lungs wept,
I ran to the end of my green hope,
Horizon was still in the distance!

Happy New Year! (Design credit Rahe Sabz)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kitchen Haiku!

In the little jungle on the kitchen table,
The wild flowers were the only survivors.

The tulip was the first to go!

October 2007, California

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not A Fish Fossil!

The semester is over. Maybe I should say its ‘demanding part’ is over, for the work of a grad student is never-ending. These days I am mostly working on my exhibition project. It is very exciting and I hope it engages the viewer with the same excitement. Unlike the show project, my study on Dubuffet goes slowly. Dubuffet’s writings are very poetic and full of short witty segments. Take a look at a couple of them in adoration of lively, dynamic and unconventional art:

A Fish Fossil
As its timeliness retreats, a human work becomes what a fish fossil is to a fish. Please don’t hold it against me, but in my fish tank I prefer the humblest, the commonest, of ablets,* so long as it’s alive (and delirious to be alive), to the most illustrious fish fossil.

A man asks for a companion, and he is brought the mummy of Thais. The most gorgeous woman in ancient Egypt, he is told. She doesn’t interest him he would rather have a live girl; the maid, for instance.**

Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire
It’s funny to note how much the artists of today*** worry about the durability of their works. Things have gone so far that artists are denying themselves all bright and dazzling colors, because these colors might eventually tarnish. These ones prefer to paint in dull hues right away. Does the intoxication involved in art harmonize with such inhibitions? Many painters fully cognizant of the reason, work hard at bland but durable pieces rather than at more pleasurable ones, which they fear will last only ten years instead of fifty.

Woman Trying on a Hat' (1943), by Jean Dubuffet

* Ablet is a small fresh-water fish.
** It is ironic that a couple of days ago the news of Louvre returning five fresco fragments to Egypt came out.
*** Dubuffet wrote these around 1945. I am wondering how much of it (importance of the durability of an art piece) is true for the artists of today – our today, the 3rd millennium today?
**** Dubuffet’s paintings in the 40s have vivid colors. Later, in the 50s his work becomes thick and monochromic, but he never used fade colors. (
The quotes are from: Dubuffet, Jean, Notes for the Well-Read, trans. Neugroschel, 1945, in Jean Dubuffet Towards an Alternative Reality, Pace Publications inc., NY, 1987.)

Sunday, December 06, 2009


A knot exhausted by the playful forces of her fingers
Gave up, unraveled itself to her eager hands.

A lost battle from the beginning.
Like believing in something, knowing it would break!

The knot, not a knot any more,
Only a piece of string resting on her lap,
No hope of wining the already lost game,
And no playful force in her tired fingers!

She picked the string up and began making an unbreakable knot!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wrestling with the Tides

and that’s how I came to be here;
waiting in the never-ending corridors,
looking for a lost key,
buried in the unreachable time between two oceans,
dusty and wild from the invisible wrestling with the tides,
and the pain of a long-broken bone that won’t heal on its own!

That is how I came to be here!

October 2007, CA

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out of the Ordinary!

It is that time of the semester again; the time of missing notes, headaches, reading chunks of articles, scattered paper all over, empty toners, sick cats,...

One of my papers is due next week. That is the earliest. I hope to finish it by weekend. Don’t want to have much on my hands on December. But the research goes slowly. I feel like I am trapped in a loop. It is really not my style. I will be miserable until I find a way out of the loop.

I should fix BibiHureyh. I have already made an appointment to get an estimate for the repair of the monitor. Without the appointment it will get them 2 days to just give an estimate. I don't know how long it gets in other computer shops, I expected Apple to be faster.

My recent article for Peyk, Art & Healing; One step into Flutter, an exhibition by Connie Arismendi, is available on pdf (English section, Peyk 124). I haven’t got the copy of the magazine yet. That makes me wonder which side is not doing the job well, the sender or the post office in Austin.

But more important than my ordinary updates, is FRONTLINE report on Neda Agha Soltan’s death in Tehran. A Death in Tehran was aired last night, Nov.17th 2009, on PBS. Please watch it and share it with others. It's worth your time. (Introduction)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bereket Music Group:

This semester Bereket, the UT Middle Eastern Ensemble, is working on traditional Arabic music. I have been playing with Bereket since spring 2009. This semester I am playing Daff. I originally play Santur. Our director for this program is Roberto Riggio. If you are in Austin join us for a night of Tarab, the ultimate musical joy in Arabic musical tradition. The admission is free. The performance will be this Thursday, Nov.12th at 7:30pm at Bates Recital Hall.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What is going on in Austin?

Art History-wise this is an energetic November:
Today is the first day of the Transnational Latin American Art Conference (the 1st International Research Forum for Graduate Students and Emerging Scholars.) It will be a 3-day conference with concentration of talks and panels on Saturday and Sunday. The papers will cover the trio continental connections in Latin American art (US, Europe, Latin America.)

Domestic-wise there is not so much energy left after too many energy-sucking issues; Zeitoon, my fat ginger cat, having heart problem was the breaking point of them all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Priceless Escape!

Escaping from lost dreams, vanishing wishes and hurtful memories, I hid myself in the most comfortable spot I could find in this house.

I am enjoying the warmth of my MacBook in a cold October night and thinking that the poor laptop deserves more care. Last week one of the pals in the Middle Eastern ensemble spilled a cup of hot sweet tea on BibiHuryeh. It functions but there are some casualties; the screen is damaged; there are some problems with saving files and receiving/replying emails. (Unhappy accident!)

This semester I am doing some work on Jean Dubuffet. I was trying to make sense of a couple of his letters (in French) when I came across a strange phrase. I was not quite sure what it meant. But I guessed it must be a satirical sentence; so I checked with my French teacher and I was right. Guessing of this kind is a considerable step in internalizing a new language. Everyday I feel more comfortable with my French. (Satisfying guess!)

Zeitoon is purring at my feet, his sweet face is calm, but his noble ears reacts excitedly to the sound of my fingers on the sticky keyboard. This is the calmest moment of my week. (Priceless!)

La Maison aux deux Chemins, Jean Dubuffet

Friday, October 23, 2009

Letters to Rilke - Number 1

Dear R ,

Did you really know it
or was it a poetic guess?

For me it has never been so clear.

And when it became as apparent as the truth should be,

But before then,

Do you have any idea how apparent the truth should be?

Have you ever felt
its coldness,
its crispiness,
its sharpness,
when it falls on you like rain on an autumn night?

You must have had it right there!

It hit me in the eyes;
my eyes burned.

And I had always assumed it would hurt the heart the most,

But no,
One should never assume about the truth; for it is not assumable.

And I was wrong about the heart,
It is the eyes that the truth hunts!

Letters to Rilke is a new sequence I am working on these days. Each piece have a parallel component from Rilke's Elegies.

Rainer Maria Rilke,

Duino Elegies,
Fragments of the First Elegy:

" But sing, when you must,
of great lovers:
their fame
has a long way to go
before it is really immortal.

Think of it:
the hero survives.

Even his ruin
is only another excuse to continue
a final birth.

But nature, exhausted
takes lovers
back into herself
as if she couldn't accomplish
that kind of vitality twice."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Those moments ...

And it is on those moments of desperation that one needs
And it is on those moments of desperation that one needs
And it is on those moments of desperation that one needs
And it is on those moments of desperation that one needs

That one believes
That one stretches
That one bends
That I ...

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Fool for the Full !

The moon was full tonight or it felt like it.

I saw it when walking to the churchyard.
Such a satisfying sight; full and complete.

And as I walked, I remembered, it was still a couple of days to the full moon in October.

I am such a fool for the full that I am a fool in full!

The full moon tonight was no fool;
It was carefully round, and I enjoyed its carefulness!

The Sleeping Gypsy (detail), 1897, Henri Rousseau
I took the photo in 2008 in MOMA.*

*It was hard to be far from New York and this smiling mustached moon in one of my favorite paintings.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It is raining in Austin!

Another semester has started. The days of the past summer has robbed me of my energy. I was left to start school with nothing but a weak body and a tired mind. I said the past summer falsely, for I am still dragging its heated corpse with me. It is hard to write of daily matters, knowing so many things that we know and living through so many things that is happening to us. So let this post be a short update.

I am in three classes this semester: American History 1920-1941, Post-structuralism, Critical Theory, and the Visual Arts, and Biopolitics of Artistic Creation in Times of Crisis.

During the summer besides some archival studies, I didn’t work much on my own research. I audited two French classes. I gave 4 introductory lectures on the history of art from Prehistoric to Cubism for the Persian Student Society at UT. And as usual I wrote articles for the art column of Peyk, PCC newsletter. The two recent pieces are Francis Bacon: figurative in the age of Abstraction (Peyk 122) and Classical in the age of Revolution (Peyk 123). You can find their pdf version here under the English section.
It is cold; I need something that warms me up inside and out!

The Green Scroll, Austin, July 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Limits of My Sphere!

Burning with the fever that multiplies my fear,
And takes away my hope to the realm of shiver;

I search for the word, but it won’t bring you here,
I look for the shine that is going to disappear,
I force my lips for a smile that is not real,
I roll the dice with alerting fear!

I know, you won’t be here,
When I force the fever to disappear.
And that, alone, breaks the limits of my sphere!

The Dot, Princeton, July 2008

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Certain Dates:

There are certain dates,
Which mark themselves on our heart-gates,
Not the birth, not the death,
That these two, are easier and do not hurt!

It is one day before the three-day hunger strike: I walk the narrow path that goes by one of the largest magnolia trees on the campus to yet another meeting.

To another talk on Iran,
On what will be the next heartbreaking news;
On whom among my brothers, sisters and friends are going to take the next accidental bullet in the streets of Tehran; Tehran the city I was born in almost 30 years ago.

I am near the magnolia tree, here the path gets narrower and my thoughts are all on Tehran.
I think of my brother, my mom and my aunt.

Tehran the ugliest city on earth; the city that I cannot live without,
For its vicious rush hours made me who I am today,
For its gloomy dusk, comforted my baby heart in so many of my girlish affairs.
For it is, A unique City, at least in the way it grows everyday, both on earth and in me!

If you see Tehran once, only once, it will hold on forever without any price!

I get to the building where we are going to meet. I think of my postponed laundry basket; It was full a week ago! A commercial is playing on TV, showing a happy woman with a bright yellow puffy skirt, holding a basket full of roses, trying to cut yet another rose in her backyard garden.

They come. We meet and the image of the happy woman gardening stays with me.

It is the first day of the hunger strike: It goes by easy. I have a cold but I hang in there. My cat knows something is wrong. He just doesn’t know how long this foodless house will be a part of his life.

On the second day of the hunger strike: I cannot get out of bed. I stay in. I dream. I dream of that happy woman with a puffy skirt.

On the third day: my eyes hurt. I have never drunk so much water in my life. I am shaking.
Someone calls. I cannot answer. Then I wake up. I start to type. My fingers are weak. I write of my dream of that yellow puffy skirt.

I write:
I grew up in Tehran. I cannot be that woman in the commercial, happy with rosy cheeks, picking up flowers from the dreamy garden of her house.

But I wish I could be her; I wish I could go on with my life
I wish there were no certain dates,
That have marked me on my chests.

I wish I didn’t know about the Summer of 1988 and what happened in Tehran; The mass execution of political prisoners. I wish it had not happened to me.

I wish I hadn’t seen 18th of Tir in Tehran; July 9th 1999 Tehran University Dormitory attack. I wish I was not a student then.

I wish I hadn’t seen Neda; the shine of her eyes flying out of the TV screen!

There are certain dates, Which mark themselves on our heart-gates!

I so much wish I could be the happy woman of the commercial, that I can even smell the apple pie baking in the fake kitchen of the TV set.

There are certain dates,
Which mark themselves on our heart-gates,
Not the birth, not the death,
That these two are easier and do not hurt!

Certain dates: they mark you; they make you!

I saw a happy woman on TV with a yellow puffy skirt!

I am not that woman, for so many certain dates have marked me on my chest.

A Strange View of the Capital, Austin, May 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Rare Moment!

I felt your heart, when I took you in.
It was a rare moment;
Time stopped,
Rain stopped,
Your heart stopped,
Only the scent of wet soil continued into my lungs.
It was a rare moment!

One of those moments that my hope opens its wings,
That my smile breaks my fear,
That I have no tear,
One of those rare moments, when I dream that my dreams are real and I have no fear,

It was a rare moment under the summer rain,
It was you, who took away my pain,

Two tiny white spots on your wings, I remember well,
A fade azure ruff around your neck, that had no break,
And the smell of rainbow in a far away sky, that took away your hope to fly,

I took you in, from the rain,
I felt your heart with my vein,
In that rare moment, I had no chain!

I gave you up to the cruel warmth,
And with you, went away my broken heart!

It was a rare moment!

Back on the chain,
Back in the pain,
I am waiting for the rain!

* Blue Dove by Picasso,
** For D13, my baby dove,

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Iran, Where Mathematics is challenged!

Where Mathematics is challenged:

Last night in the cloudy sky of Austin I saw the crescent moon of June; a dash of hope in the gloomy days of my life.

I am from Iran; I study Art History. I live in Austin with a cat and a mathematician husband whose ultimate belief in mathematics was challenged a couple of weeks ago.

It was about three weeks ago around 2AM Tehran’s time, that Iran’s interior ministry with a speed unknown to men announced the results of the 10th Presidential Election; more than 20 million votes were counted and the winner of the presidential election was announced some hours later, as Ahmadinejad.

My husband said, the interior ministry people have probably failed their calculus courses in high school.

The next day when people, my friends and my fellow students, came to the streets to get their votes back, my family of 4 in Tehran extended to millions. It was yet another mathematically challenging equation.

Today, although we are far from Iran, we are standing side by side with our family of millions, with our fellow Iranians.

Since mathematics could not answer neither for the fraudulent election of June 2009, nor for my overgrown family, my mind is reaching out to any art historical analysis I have learned. So I may be able to bring some sense to what has shocked my people and me in these past weeks.

Iran, my country is in a Surreal State; a mixture of dreams and nightmares. People of course are trying to turn the dreams into reality and the nightmares into a minimal state.

I am from Iran, where mathematics is challenged and surrealistic nightmares are ruling.

Our Votes Are Stolen, But Not Our Hopes!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran: No to The Coup!

Where is My VOTE?
Where is the People's VOTE?
Where is OUR VOTE?

My country, Iran, is under Coup d'etat!

No to Coup d'etat!

PS. Thanks to T. for his unwanted corrections; it is good to know people care!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 Iranian Presidential Election:

On Iranian Presidential Election:
The 2009 presidential election in Iran has fully occupied my days in the past month. There are 3 candidates running besides the current president. They are: Mir-Hossein Mousavi (Independent Reformist), Mehdi Karroubi (Etemad-e Meli, Reformist) Mohsen Rezaee (Independent Conservative).

If you are interested and you are more comfortable reading the news on Iran's coming election in English these are some useful inks to check. Most of my links are from BBC News partly because I am an old BBC fan and in some parts because I think among other agencies BBC is relatively impartial.

Iranian presidential election, 2009 on Wikipedia
Iran's presidential candidates BBC
Iran presidential race appears to get tighter BBC
Big test for Iranian democracy BBC
Iran candidate backs women's rights BBC
Ahmadinejad courts a divided Iran BBC
Iran's Ahmadinejad lambasts opponents BBC
Will Iran's 'Marriage Crisis' Bring Down Ahmadinejad? Time

Build on your background information on Iran:
Iran History and Timeline
Iran in Maps
Country Profile
Iran: facts and figures
Guide: Who runs Iran
Iran's revolution turns 30

WE Will Vote!
We vote for those who Do Not Lie to us,
For those who Do Not Oppress us,
For those who Do Not Discriminate against
Women, Children and Minorities,
For those who are a step Forward in the Process of Reform!


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Row-Maker / Row-Breaker :

An exhibition of Contemporary Iranian Art in LTMH Gallery (Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery). It is a group exhibition featuring 40 artists from the post WWII to today. Selseleh/Zelzeleh stands for Tradition/Tremor. I would paraphrase it to Row-Maker /Row-breaker. The names that caught my eyes are: Parviz Tanavoli, Nazanin Pouyandeh, Sohrab Sepehri and ShirinNeshat. The exhibition will be on view until August 20th, 2009. If I make it to New York this summer this exhibition will be one of my visits.

Heech on a Chair, Parviz Tanavoli, 2007-8,

* Read more about the exhibition on Artlog: Selseleh / Zelzeleh: Movers & Shakers In Contemporary Iranian Art.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Planning!

Today is one of those rare days that the air conditioning system in the Fine Arts Library is working in a desirable temperature, consistent with my mood. I am here trying to figure out what books I need to keep for the summer. I finished the semester by handing in all my papers last week and now I am planning for the summer. My mind tries very hard to block the depressing thought that I perhaps won’t see my family this summer; as far as my eyes are concerned my mind is not successful at all.

I will continue writing for Peyk newsletter. My latest column was on early photography in Iran inspired by a class I took this semester on Early Photography. The piece is a public introduction to amazing photographs of an often-unnoticed photographer, Antoin Sevruguin. You can check the PDF version of the piece on Peyk 121 English section.

Have you seen any interesting films recently? I hope to have a more active film life in the summer. No certain plans yet, but two movies per week is a start.

I will take two summer sessions of French; the registration will open again on May 26th. I have to be careful with the deadline; I’ve already missed an early registration. This is basically the only thing I am sure I will do.

The rest of my plans like many other times are more of a ‘Wish List’ rather than an organized schedule that one can follow and put check marks next to the tasks that are done. I am going to keep the wish list unpublished for the time being.

Just to make this post a bit interesting: I finally had the chance to visit Driscoll Villa at Laguna Gloria (AMOA). I had two failed attempts before, I got there every time when they were closing the villa. But this Sunday it was like magic. I made friends with the nicest lady one can imagine and she let me in for 10min. I will visit the villa again. She promised to tell me many interesting stories about Clara Driscoll.

Beverly Penn, Genius Loci: Villa (detail), 2007
Bronze, 72 x 72 X 12 inches

Friday, May 01, 2009

That familiar line between your eyebrows!

Sunlight danced on your ebony hair,
Hiding the familiar line between your eyebrows

I missed you to the light,
Frightened by the sight,
I heard him calling your name.

He called,
You turned,
And from the distance between you and him
A scent swung about my dream,
And I knew at once; this is you!

Did I miss another May Day with you?
Did you fill the trunk of the car with carnation flowers today?

The sun gets brighter, I ask you to take me with you,
But the shinny glass that separated us for many painful years is thick,
You don’t hear me,

The light is gone,
You are gone,
I am here with a trunk full of carnation flowers!

* To my parents: Happy Anniversary!
* To you all, Happy May Day! Happy International Workers Day!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fabricated Happiness

A good day with a tiring end, like many other days! There was a time when I underestimated the concept of Happy Ending; but no more. I need happy endings even the fake and fabricated ones!

Not in a good shape art-wise; I've missed some exciting exhibitions. But from an academic angle I am happy with the way my papers are progressing. Two presentations are over; the third one is due next week. Then I have to finish my papers before May 15th. So far this semester was a busy and good one. I am thinking of taking a French course during the summer, but haven't done anything about it yet.

Just came across this video on YouTube; it sort of rhymes with my mood at the moment. For the first time perhaps in many years I am not happy with an ambiguous ending; I want a happy one!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Post-it Note

In a post-it format: thins on my mind these days:
  • Iran's coming presidential election.
  • Schoolwork and my three papers: ‘The idea of Round City: Firouzabad & Baghdad’, ‘Léger in 1950s and the notion of New Reality’ and ‘Portraits & Mud-bricks: Antoin Sevruguin photography’. Don't know if I make it to the end of May.
  • Mehregan, ah, Mehregan! And another damned summer far away from home, mom, dad and Mehregan.
  • My film life and Tameshk Film Club.
  • A Personal note: me and string !

The circular plan, Firouzabad, (image source)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Short Walk!

The walk was short for a journey across the Atlantic!

Those we passed by,
Those who passed us by,
Blooming fields,
Your agony
And me!

For so long I have wondered what was the name of that scentless flower?
The one I imagined, wrote, erased, re-imagined and rewrote
For so long!

The flower, that was once there,
The one I thought was a sign,
Now a scentless, nameless image!

The walk was short for this journey!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Call It Your Own!

Useful Link:
This is a very useful link for those of us who like to take a look at monumental sites around the world without leaving our comfy chairs. It will give you a Panoramic view of the site. You just need to open a free account and then you search the site you want. I just learned about this website through a graduate seminar I am taking this semester; The Islamic City. The site is part of UNESCO's project to preserve world heritage sites. : World Heritage sites in panophotographies - immersive and interactive panoramic images.

I am preparing a presentation for tomorrow on Peter Henry Emerson and Photography. He has many contradictory statements; each individual statement makes sense only when you read it alone but the combination of them in an essay becomes very confusing. I will end this post with one of Emerson's many statements, but perhaps the most positively confident one. Most of these statements are hints to Photographers; a very early attempt to establish photography as a worthy Art.

"Do not talk of Rembrandt pictures, there was but one Rembrandt. Light your own pictures as best as you can and call them your own." (Emerson( 1856-1936), Hints on Art)

Pond In Winter, by Peter Henry Emerson, 1888

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring is here!

Went to Denver for a couple of days; had little time to study.

Spring Cleaning:
I have been struggling with the regular cleaning since September. And more to my shame I had not enough time to finish this year’s Spring Cleaning properly. The question of having a cleaning person is an old and unanswered question in my book; a debate that finally had a winner side when I saw a tempting housekeeping flyer in our apartment building lobby; So hopefully on the first day of spring and the first day of the year 1388 in Persian Calendar I will have a proper cleaning.

Fernand Léger: Cleaning, Art & Unemployment:
In 1937 Léger proposed to the City of Paris to employ the 300,000 unemployed in Paris by giving them the job of cleaning the walls of every building in Paris; so Paris will be all white during the day. Based on Léger’s proposal during the night Paris would be covered with colored light; the white walls would work as screens for projection. Although Leger’s proposal was rejected back then, three decades later Paris was bleached out white.

I am working on Fernand Léger’s work during 40’s and 50’s for one of my papers this semester. Most Léger scholars and commentators seem to be interested in Leger’s proposal of cleaning Paris walls, connecting it to Léger’s core interest in Architecture and painting and his ideals of public art.

Traveling & Spring Break:
I am still in Denver airport due to flight complications. I would never travel during the spring break again. Never Ever!

The Builders, Fernand Léger, 1950


Happy Nowruz & Happy Spring to all who celebrate Spring!

PS. President Obama sends a Nowruz message to all who celebrate Nowruz: a message of New Beginnings. See the Video Message here! Isn't he a great president !

*Thanks to Roya for sharing this link on her Twitter.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Let your Lungs be your Guide!

To get to her,
Let your lungs be your guide,

To find her you should know Attar-y *
To understand Attar-y is to understand a culture,
A culture that she was born, raised and died in.

She sat in her shop,
On a small wooden chair,
Surrounded by
Lines of spice containers, rows of perfume bottles, and barrels of herbal arrack!

Her Attar-y was a small narrow room in the basement of a busy street,
Eyes wouldn’t notice the presence of her shop,
But by your lungs you couldn't see anything else on that busy street, but her shop!

There was no escape, once you were there;
The small windows of the basement would grew so big into your lungs,
That no curtain could hide her existence.

Her gravestone is a gray blank sheet of stone,
No inscription; none was needed,

Here again your lungs can guide you
If you stop by that cemetery
The one filled with walnut trees, the one with rocky grounds

Just take a deep breath
So, when the soil she is in take your breath away,
You have something to go on with.

If you happen to pass by that busy street,
If you happen to walk into another dimension of space, time and scent,
If you happen to know her,
Your lungs will never escape her again!

*Attar-y or perfume shop is where you can find perfumes, essential oils, herbal medicine and old remedies!

**Happy March 8th; Happy Women's Day!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The 97th CAA Conference in LA

In Los Angeles for the CAA 2009 annual conference:

Yesterday at CAA conference: I enjoyed panels on Surrealism, photography and Islamic Arts: Surrealism au Naturel (part I), Seeing and/or Believing the Photography, The Erotic and Sensuous in Islamic Art.

Today so far I went to Kitsch in the 1960’s and I really enjoyed the Society of Contemporary Art Historian session on What is Contemporary Art History? The session magnified issues concerning the contemporary art history; the room was packed. Variety of brilliant ideas were presented and interesting questions were raised, which I admit all were necessary. But it seems to me that the panelists did not construct any subtle proposal (no one expected any solution of course) for the further direction that one may get about the issues concerning the Contemporary Art History. The panel was more of a tête-à-tête among art historians who seemed all to be in agreement about the ongoing issues of contemporary art history. I enjoyed it because it gave me a lot to think of.

To follow the 97th CAA annual conference; check the official CAA 2009 Conference Blog here.

Just finished my green tea latte in the blizzard of people wondering around the corridors before the afternoon sessions begin. Related and unrelated to this last panel is my paper cup that quotes Chef, Marcus Samuelsson, “Taste is Subjective. Taste is democratic. Taste is powerful. […]” (The Way I See It # 270)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Exhibition of A Translation:

The role of a translation in popularity of a poet and his poetry in the West:
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' in West,

"The Persian Sensation:The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in the West" is a 6-month long exhibition that focuses on the earliest translations of Khayyam’s poetry in the West. 200 items are exhibited in The Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin from February 3rd to August 2nd, 2009. The exhibition is centered on Edward FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat, which was first published in 1859 and is known to be the first English translation of Khayyam’s poetry in the West. FitzGerald has also translated a selection of the poems to Latin.

Although an amateur translator, FitzGerald’s works on Rubaiyat came to be the most famous translation of Khayyam’s work. He changed the order of Khayyam’s stanzas (four-line poems) to get to a clear narrative on the mystical message of Khayyam’s poetry that encourages all to cherish the moment they are living in. FitzGreald was criticized by many for not being devoted to the verses in his translation by rearranging the poems; some even called FitzGerald translation “The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar.”

The question of “what is a genuine translation especially when it comes to poetry?” has created many scholarly fights. As an amateur translator, I have often had problems with this question myself, especially growing up reading great translations by Beh-Azin (Mahmoud Etemadzadeh- محمود اعتمادزاده), Ahmad Shamlou and Mohammad Ghazi, whose manner of translation differed from one another, has brought me to the belief that depending on the literary text the translation can follow various styles; the best example perhaps is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which was translated to more than 100 languages. Look at Shamlou’s translation of The Little Prince: Shamlou practically re-wrote the book and God knows how poetic Shamlou made it. This translation was so poetic that people of my generation didn't hesitate to quote Shamlou’s Little Prince next to Persian love poems in their love letters. (The same book was also translated by Ghazi, who used a more traditional line of translation; some readers prefer Ghazi’s work to Shamlou’s. I certainly prefer Shamlou's.)

The Persian Sensation in Harry Ransom Center has developed four parts in answering this question: 'How and why did a translation of medieval Persian poetry become one of the most famous books in the West?' The sections are: "The Poets' Rubáiyát" concentrating on both Khayam’s poems and FitzGerald’s translation and the history of British presence in the Middle East. "The Cult of Omar" touches on the impact of Rubaiyat on Oriental objects. "Everybody's Rubáiyát” focuses on the popularity of Khayyam’s poetry in the world and "In Search of Khayyám" looks for the traces of Khayyam and his poetry in today’s Iran.

Interesting to know and related to this exhibition is Rubáiyát Film Series. (For the schedule visit here.) If you are curious to know how Titanic (the ship) is related to Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, check the link for the exhibition and pay a visit to Harry Ransom Center.

Poster for the Exhibition
The Persian Sensation:The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in the West

Harry Ransom Center, Feb -Aug 2009

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by FitzGerald, First Edition

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Week's Snapshots:

A Great Documentary:

I was on the Netflix waiting list for months. But Standard Operating Procedure (2008) another mind-blowing documentary by Errol Morris was really worth it. S.O.P. is a documentary about the abuse of terrorists suspects at the in Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. forces. Like other Morris' documentaries, Standard Operating Procedure is an interview-based documentary, where the director's presence is reduced to his masterly jump-cuts and his composed camera close-ups. The film chases the photographs taken by prison guards and the interview follows the line of the investigation that took place after the notorious photos broke the story of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to the world. The director is successful in raising questions on the role of photography (or a photograph) in transformation of people’s belief.

The film made me think of photography and the agency that the medium has obtained through the history of photography. In the early days of its invention, photography was seen as the true representation of reality. This early reputation has been long broken: in early days of photography, one believed what one saw in a photograph, but this aspect of ‘photography equals reality’ was broken by the photographic trickeries that developed pretty much early in the history of the medium. But the Abu Ghraib prison photos, in a way touches on this early reputation, which saw photographic picture as an agent of reality, a true evidence of what happened and nothing matters outside the picture. Of course there are much more going on both on Morris’ documentary and the actual historic event of 2004. What appeals to me through the film and the historic event, is the fact that the investigation for the abuse of prisoners has stopped with the photographs: the investigator looks at each photograph and stops where the frame limits him. Perhaps that’s why the only people who got in trouble because of the abuse are the prison guards who were there in that frame.

I really didn’t mean to go on and on with my photo-philosophical thoughts, (The course I am taking on the early history of photography make me think like that), I just wanted to encourage you to see this brilliant documentary.

My Cool Backpack:
Another exciting but much less intellectual deed of mine last week was the purchase of my first backpack. Of course I had backpacks before, but they were all gifts. This is the first time I bought a backpack for myself. It is so spacious and very comfortable on shoulders. I love its design: it is a Golla design from Kolobags. And as you can see it is green; I don’t think I need to tell you about the Green color!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Enjoyable Crowded Days!

Busy weeks, sleepless nights and rushed mornings is a typical description of my life but in the past two weeks something is different: I am similarly busy, sleepless and rushed, but I am less nervous, more excited, less guarded and more productive. I enjoy my busy, rushed and sleepless days and I think I have learned not to be nervous about them.

I finally got my Texas driving license; Texas had a new regulation since October 1st 2008; no Driving license or state’s identification card will be issued to the international residents (aliens) whose I-94 card has less than 6month of validity. The thing is that most other states, if not all others, accept the receipt of the application for a new I-94 card and consider it as an evidence of the legal status of the applicant. At any rate it was a nightmare and it is gone now! But not really, it is not gone! The fact of the matter is that it is not my nightmare any more. If you live in Texas and you are an alien resident and you don’t want it to become your nightmare in future: Contact the international office of your school, institute or company, reflect your concerns in writing and ask them to reflect it to their supervising seniors. Your critique will eventually find its way up to the ears of the lawmakers. You can also contact your local representative in the House, even if you are not a US citizen; they listen and many times they tend to change things for better.

Listening to music is a task for me; by this I mean, usually I don’t enjoy background music. But I guess working in coffee shops has changed me in this way. Now I can tolerate background music of my choice. A year or so ago, Kia (not the car) told me about a free online music radio, Musicovery, which I use a lot these days. Musicovery plays music depending on your mood: you can choose your music style and your mood (Dark, Calm, Positive, Energetic)! If you already are a Musicovery user, I like to know what you think of it. If you just heard about it please check it out and let me know what you think. I think they have a cool and easy to use website and a good collection, which still has some room for improvement. I listen to lots of Country music there!

At last,
A late Happy Darwin's day! An early Happy Valentine’s Day! And as some people celebrate it; Happy Singles Awareness Day!

I am enjoying my crowded days; Enjoy yours!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Golden Illusions!

When I first knocked* at the door
When you first looked at me

I looked into many poems to find the right one
The one that could tell the tale of
That first knock,
That first look ,

A poem that is easy on eyes
Warm on lips
Simple to ears

And yet the one that can spell out
The shaking hands, the jumping blood, the rounded pupil,

A poem that rhymes with my frightened heart when I first knocked
A poem that laughs at me: oy, oy, I thought of that knock for so long!
A poem that could tell me now and back then, that
The eyes I thought to be unique, were in fact a visionary trick!
That I was nearsighted
you were far and so unlighted

I am tired of looking for the right poem,
Hoping for such verses makes me dizzy,

I hoped for it for so long and so hard that I even know its shape
I know the words that make it
I can even say the poet’s name!

It should be short, shorter than Haiku, perhaps with only seven words;

It should be something hard,
That only rhymes in the mind;
It should be something old
That says
Your alchemy turned my illusions to gold!

Alman Çeşmesi (German Fountain), Details,
Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2005

*Thanks for the correction Masoud Jan!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Early Spring Report:

Spring semester has started at UT on Tuesday. The seminars I am taking this semester are very exciting and all of them are right up my alley: Duchamp by Decade, First hundred years of Photography and The Islamic City.

I am planning to visit Menil Collection in Houston for their current exhibition, Max Ernst; in the Garden of Nymph Ancolie. The exhibition will be on view until February 15th. The department's research round-table talks today were by Peter Mowris on 'Destructive Salvation: Max Ernst's Microbes and the Politics of the Atom' and Caitlin Haskell on 'On Not Forgetting Nature'. They will both present their papers in CAA 2009 annual conference, on Surrealism au naturel session. After these talks I got more motivated to visit Menil's permanent collection to see Ernst's Microbes (microscopic paintings); I don't think the Microbes are part of the current exhibition.

Recently I've started to read English poetry in English. This is not as silly as it sound; I've read some of them before in Farsi. This new interest in reading English poetry is mostly because of David, a dear friend who is a poet himself. I don't follow any style or chronological order. I just read what I find interesting. This is a short one by William Butler Yeats that kept me thinking all day:

Spilt Milk
We that have done and thought,
That have thought and done,
Must ramble, and thin out
Like milk spilt on a stone.
(Yeats, 1933)

And last but not least on my early spring report is the thrill of Obama's presidency; I took this photo on the election night; Obama is giving his victory speech, I am capturing our reflection on the iMac monitor while we followed the speech online. (Obama with Sepia Effect)

Obama in Sepia or Every Election is Your Reflection, November 2008

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What movies I saw during the break: (Part I)

I am just writing them in the order they come to my mind. This is not a film club post. I will have a separate post for Tameshk Film Club.

Movies to See on a Big Screen:

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) directed by Danny Boyle and co-director is Loveleen Tandan. It is based on “Q & A” a novel by Vikas Swarup. It is a brilliant film. The story has a Satyajit Ray quality in the beginning and it ends with Indian musical dancing. It is narrated by Jamal Malik (Dev Petal) in the course of a police questioning. It is Jamal’s life story we hear and through it we follow Jamal and his brother from the slums of Mombai to the Indian TV program “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” The theatrical quality of Indian films is replaced by a well-done montage and a mild, pleasant and dark humor. Not a Bollywood production, but like most Indian films from Bollywood it is love that holds Slumdog Millionaire together. The Cinematography is great. Every single shot stands on its own; the cinematographer is Anthony Dod Mantle who has also filmed The Last King of Scotland (2006). For Slumdog Millionaire My vote is A; For it proves that cinema can make a difference and made me believe again that there is nothing as powerful as Cinema when it comes to Storytelling.

Rachel Getting Married (2008) directed by Jonathan Demme: I have a Love/Hate relationship with this film and its characters; therefore I call it a successfully challenging film. Rachel Getting Married is a film that challenges the viewer’s comfort zone. Its cheesy title informs us of a wedding, which becomes the sparkling platform of the story. After all Rachel is getting married. The plot is a strong beautiful and disturbing story written by Jenny Lumet. A young girl, Kym (Anne Hathaway) comes out of rehab for her sister’s wedding. Her coming back introduces us to other characters and the history of her family. They are all here for Rachel’s wedding. That’s it. Every wedding has a happy and exciting appearance, but who among us denies the fact that weddings are the summit of family clashes and complex situations; the issue that have little to with two families (bride’s and groom’s) getting related. What I like most about the story is the kept away details. We see the obvious, what everyone sees in this family, and we get to see more if we get used to the slow pace of the film. The story, if any, divulges itself to us very slowly, as in life. The movie has a handycam-family-film quality; like a family wedding film.

It had a smart but to a point bothering music. Every time we hear the music we can be sure that Damme has given us the source of it somewhere in the screen. It gives a carnival-istic quality to the film with a good excuse for the carnival to be there; the groom and his friends are musicians and there is a wedding going on. My favorite sequence is Rachel and Kym’s discussion after the dinner party that ends up beautifully with Rachel’s surprising announcement. I only don’t know why many people felt the film is a comedy, where I find it to be more of a drama, not even a dark comedy. It is not a drama even. It is life at it comes at us. Rachel Getting Married, like its title, is a short compact report-like film on the relationships within a family. Anne Hathaway shows how capable she is as an actress. Other characters are played interestingly well. My vote for Rachel Getting Married is A-, The minus is probably for the moments I felt the music is too much.

Revolutionary Road (2008) directed by Sam Mandes. This one will be a difficult one. When I saw the film couple of days ago I thought it was a good film with a very good story and good performances. It is a sort of film that a friend of mine said, “you feel shitty after seeing!” Today after so much struggling, thinking and rethinking about the film, Revolutionary Road, I can say all the above is true except that it is not a very good film. It has a good story. It is based on a novel by Richard Yates. The book was counted among the 100 best English language Novels in 2005 by Time. The performances are ripe; Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio play very well. But it is not their best; Winslet did much better in Little Children (2006) a film that has some similarities to Revolutionary Road in the story and characters, a woman who has not achieved what she was capable of and has a tedious life of a married woman and DiCaprio has much better than Mr. Wheeler in his résumé. As for Sam Mandes, this film is a well enough film but not a great movie for someone who directed American Beauty (1999) so brilliantly. So why is everyone amazed by this film? I think the film touches on our emotional judgment, when we see the young and beautiful actors of Titanic (1997) get together here doing much better in their acting than in their love compared to Titanic, we cannot stop ourselves from cheering the actors and think of the Revolutionary Road as what it is: an average film based on a great novel.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what the film has presented to us about the reality of a married life. It was the truth behind the reality and of course that is the whole story here. It is the ‘empty & hopeless’ life of a married couple; I identified with it but then I asked myself if telling the truth makes a brilliant film; not really. The story is good but there is nothing that makes this film exceptional. It is an average film. My vote for it is B+. My favorite character is of course John Givings, the institutionalized mathematician played by Michael Shannon, the one who believes, that many people see the emptiness but it get some guts to see the hopelessness. Hey, don’t forget to see the film. It is not a bad film. It is just not as great as its novel. If I were you I would read the book before seeing the film.

OK this post is long enough already. I will write about Doubt (2008) directed by John Patrick Shanley, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) directed by Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath and Quantum of Solace (2008) directed by Marc Forster another Daniel Craig’s James Bond in the next post.

First edition cover, source Wikipedia (here)