Continuous City

Performance/Installation Rotterdam 2019
Installation of 4 handmade flags (max 2,5mx3.5m)
Supported by Mondriaan Foundation,
Prospects and Concepts 2019, Art Rotterdam,
February 2019

Collaborators: Ahmadali Kadivar, Giulia Crispiani
Advisors: Ali Gholipour, Mansour Aziz, Rime Wassim

Continuous city is an installation composed of a series of curtains made by embroidered textile, produced while traveling through the cities of Tehran, Beirut and Cairo. This installation was shown at the exhibition Prospects and Concepts for Rotterdam Art Fair 2019.

The fascination toward Cairo grew immediately after the first trip, fueled by the city’s unparalleled similarities with Tehran, and the embedded complexity of living in a city where the great political and historical events are stored mostly in the collective memories of citizens more than in any official narrative, inasmuch as the lives of citizens in public spaces. The work is a condensation of all these suggestions, and the urgent need to record a very personal visual story of the city. The intertwined contemporary history of these two cities and the general understanding of Cairo as the cultural capital of the Arab world, in regards to cinema, music, and press industry—like Tehran representing the cultural capital for Farsi speakers–gives to this city a special value compared to other Arab cities. These aspects combined shaped the aesthetics of this series of works.

The Iranian writer Naser Khosrow (1004 – 1088 CE) wrote a lot about Cairo, almost 1000 years ago. His literature describes the city in details, its monuments and the rituals of its inhabitants, showing his deep fascination with Cairo, during the Fatimid period. He carefully avoids to clarify his position due to the political limitations he could face when returning to Iran and in the Abbasid state. The present situation of Iran And Egypt, after four decades of isolation and diplomatic breakdown of their respective countries, partly influenced the visual choices of the project as well.

The books Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and One Thousand and One Nights are the other fundamental references that shaped the final structure of the curtains. Invisible Cities set up the imagination of cities within a city, which was central in the understanding of Cairo. One Thousand and One Nights was instead crucial in the framing of possibilities in breaking out the narrative’s linear time.

Each of these four curtains contains a story about the traversed paths in these cities and is inspired by their public spaces. In the largest curtain, the words presence and absence surround the sunset above Tehran’s six main highways nodes, from East to West and North to South. The middle curtain holds the western entrance to the city of Tehran together with the interconnection of two main highways in west of Tehran. The top middle one is a tribute to the festivity and posterity of the cinema industry of the 1950s both in Iran and Egypt, and the big curtain in the left refers to Shahrzad’s storytelling and specifically to her stories mentioning the two cities of Tehran And Cairo, kept apart from each others for forty years, while they lived in a thousand and one nights story, between the sunsets and sunrises of their respective horizons.

The curtains are all handmade and their most sophisticated embroidery is done by Mr. Zarbaf on Naser Khorsari Street in Tehran. During the making of the curtains, Mr. Zarbaf helped me several times, sometimes picking the colors for words and backgrounds. His great experience in making religious and national flag in this small shop has heavily contributed to the details and to the effect given by both the size of words and the colors contrast with the different backgrounds, during this collaboration that lasted for several months—during the making of the curtains.

For Farsi click here