London Calling Tehran was an answer to an invitation following conversations and discussions with John Phillips and Liz O’Sullivan in April 2012. The featured collection is part of “Calling Project” which is an exchange of two portfolio/collections of artworks. The London Portfolio exhibiting in Tehran is a collection of donated works from British artists and the Tehran portfolio will be a collection of works from Iranian artists as a gift from us to them.
This project formed in a London-based Lebanese cafe, close to londonprintstudio with Liz and John, speaking about everything in the world. A key part of the conversation centred on the intrigue and excellence of British and Iranian artists and the recurring focus and regret of how the media -- dependent and independent -- always seem to report two “one-sided views” of how artists approach and develop their work in response to their cultures and lives.
Therefore, “Calling Project” takes a group of artists from each nation, discrete from any orientations, and asks them to talk about their capital city as a representation of dominant culture, politics and other social aspects.
The title of this exhibition was offered by John Phillips and borrowed from The Clash’s famous anthem, London Calling. It was the perfect match.
We hope this project opens some new windows to the intellectual communication of these two incredibly unique cultures.
With our deepest appreciation to the curators of the first portfolio – London calling: Tehran - John Phillips and Liz O’Sullivan, londonprintstudio and all participant artists who took part in this project.
Tarlan Rafiee, Yashar Samimi Mofakham, July 2012
This portfolio is a response to Tarlan Rafiee and Yashar Samimi Mofakham’s invitation to londonprintstudio to prepare a small exhibition for 7Samar gallery, Tehran. It is frequently said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Yet, in many ways, words and images have no equivalence, and the one can never substitute for the other. Words and images do however share one feature, they both depend on two or more parties sharing a common set of codes and references, and they are therefore both subject to the same dilemma: the presentation of things new, and unknown, is dependant on something already acknowledged and shared. Thus in presenting aspects of London through this portfolio, we hope to draw on the common experience of people in our different cities,
The portfolio’s title: London Calling: Tehran alludes to a song (and album) by the West London Punk Rock band the Clash. The title on the album’s cover is distinctively written in the colours pink and green. These colours were used by Strummer to make the poster, included in the Portfolio, at our studio for the local rock band ‘the 101’s, in which he sang before becoming a superstar, It is, like the portfolio itself, an authentic ‘voice’ from the street.
Each of the images in the portfolio seeks to reveal something particular about our city; its arterial routes; architectural and human breath; the reasons why people seek refuge here; the opulence, power and aspiration; the inequalities and conflicts, the faces of beauty in a population that speaks 300 languages, and our tame ‘wild animals’ that hunt junk food. We hope that collectively these images say more than their 'seventeen thousand word equivalence’.
John Phillips, Liz O’Sulivan, 2012
Overview and HistoryTehran is the capital of Iran and the largest city in the Middle East, with a population of fifteen million people living under the peaks of the Alborz mountain range.Although archaeological evidence places human activity around Tehran back into the years 6000BC, the city was not mentioned in any writings until much later, in the thirteenth century. It's a relatively new city by Iranian standards.But Tehran was a well-known village in the ninth century. It grew rapidly when its neighboring city, Rhages, was destroyed by Mongolian raiders. Many people fled to Tehran.In the seventeenth century Tehran became home to the rulers of the Safavid Dynasty. This is the period when the wall around the city was first constructed. Tehran became the capital of Iran in 1795 and amazingly fast growth followed over the next two hundred years.The recent history of Tehran saw construction of apartment complexes and wide avenues in place of the old Persian gardens, to the detriment of the city's cultural history.The city at present is laid out in two general parts. Northern Tehran is more cosmopolitan and expensive, southern Tehran is cheaper and gets the name "downtown."Getting ThereMehrabad airport is the original one which is currently in the process of being replaced by Imam Khomeini International Airport. The new one is farther away from the city but it now receives all the international traffic, so allow an extra hour to get there or back.TransportationTehran driving can be a wild free-for-all like some South American cities, so get ready for shared taxis, confusing bus routes and a brand new shiny metro system to make it all better. To be fair, there is a great highway system here.The metro has four lines, tickets cost 2000IR, and they have segregated cars. The women-only carriages are the last two at the end, FYI.Taxis come in two flavors, shared and private. Private taxis are more expensive but easier to manage for the visiting traveler. Tehran has a mean rush hour starting at seven AM and lasting until 8PM in its evening version. Solution? Motorcycle taxis! They cut through the traffic and any spare nerves you might have left.People and CultureMore than sixty percent of Tehranis were born outside of the city, making it as ethnically and linguistically diverse as the country itself. Tehran is the most secular and liberal city in Iran and as such it attracts students from all over the country.Things to do, RecommendationsTake the metro to the Tehran Bazaar at the stop "Panzda Gordad". There you can find anything and everything -- shoes, clothes, food, gold, machines and more. Just for the sight of it alone you should take a trip there.If you like being outside, go to Darband and drink tea in a traditional setting. Tehranis love a good picnic and there are plenty of parks to enjoy. Try Mellat park on a friday (fridays are public holidays), or maybe Park Daneshjou, Saaii or Jamshidieh.Remember to go upstairs and have a look around, always always always! The Azadi Tower should fit the bill; it was constructed to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.Tehran is also full of museums such as:the Contemporary Art Museumthe Abghine Musuem (glass works)the 19th century Golestan Royal Palace museumthe museum of carpets (!!!)Reza Abbasi Museum of extraordinary miniaturesand most stunning of all,the Crown Jewels Museum which holds the largest pink diamond in the world and many other jaw-dropping jewels.Text by Steve Smith.