Precursors of the surreal

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-93) Italy

Vertumnus (circa 1590) oil on wood panel

Fire (1566) oil on wood panel

Heironymous Bosch (1450-1516) Netherlands

Last Judgement Triptych 1482 oil on wood panel  search @

Garden of Earthly Delights circa 1490-1510  oil on wood panel

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) Germany

Four Horseman of the Apocalypse circa 1497-98

wood engraving

online archive of Dürer’s wood engravings



Salvador Dali (1904-89) (Catalonia) Spain

Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) oil on canvas 51.2cm×78.1cm

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Living Still Life (English)/ Nature Morte Vivante (French) (1956) oil on canvas

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Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Love Song (1914) oil on canvas 73 x 59.1cm

By subverting the logical presence of objects, de Chirico created what he termed “metaphysical” paintings, representations of what lies “beyond the physical” world.

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To become immortal a work of art must escape all human limits; logic and common sense will only interfere. GdeC

 and some others:

Floris Van Schooten (c.1585-1655) Table with Food (1640)

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Michael Zavros (born 1974) Australia V12 Narcissus (2009)

'V12 Narcissus' 2009 relates to a series of paintings Zavros made of his prized black V12 Mercedes Benz automobile. Growing up on the Gold Coast, the young artist and his father would bond over visiting local car dealerships together. For them the Mercs displayed in the window were synonymous with success; a symptom of what the artist terms as his Irish/Greek-Cypriot family's 'migrant materialism'. Read more @

The Buddhas of Bamiyan

UNESCO page on the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan

The Buddhas of Bamiyan before and after destruction 10mins 5 ½ mins

 Destruction of the ancient Buddha stautes in 2001.

 Should the Buddhas of Bamiyan be reconstructed ?

Marjane Satrapi,   born 1969 in Iran, lives and works in France.  Graphic novels, comic strips, children’s’ books, animation, film

Persepolis  The film was written and directed by Satrapi with Vincent Paronnaud (2007)

Persepolis I, Persepolis II  graphic novels (2000) Chiara Clemente’s mini-doco on Marjane Satrapi Satrapi speaks about her point-of-view  Marji’s Persian history lesson from her father Marji and contraband Western music  interview with writer/director, Satrapi Persepolis movie website, contains synopsis, interviews, illustrations.

A  Joshuah Bearman (2006)

Toward the end of Persepolis II, the second installment of Marjane Satrapi’s ongoing project of autobiographical graphic novels, the author/narrator spends seven months designing a huge theme park based on Persian mythology. She takes her Tehran-based Disneyland to the Deputy Mayor’s office, where it is rejected—luckily for us, because shortly after that disappointment, Satrapi left Iran for Paris, a final emigration that led her to discover Art Spiegelman, the power of comics, and the development of her own method of storytelling.

Satrapi’s graphic novels are the opposite of mythology; personal and honest, they humanize the Middle East through memoir. Hemmed in by the tyranny of the mullahs, Satrapi’s life is nevertheless cosmopolitan, politically engaged, culturally sophisticated, and, like those of all adolescents, deeply conflicted. Today Satrapi lives in Paris, where she remains deeply conflicted, caught between home and exile, East and West, now all the more complicated by the geopolitics of the post–September 11 world.  

B  from an interview published in The Believer magazine

THE BELIEVER: Your books recently came out in Israel and were well received.

MARJANE SATRAPI: In a place like Israel, they’re very concerned with Iran, so there’s a lot of interest. Especially with what’s going on there now, the new government and all. So they want to see what this Iranian from France has to say in her comics. I guess that’s good. Now the books are coming out in other countries. And each time, they discover something different to be interested in.

BLVR: I think the broad appeal probably has to do with how your stories humanize a mostly unknown place. The popular notion about Iran is as a terrifying theocracy, brimming with lunatics who want to kill the West. As if every single Iranian has a bunch of flags in their closet, all lined up for the next Death to America/Israel protest. And then your books come along and tell a different story, about people with the same problems, sorrows, and joys that we have. And fears—here are Iranians who are just as afraid of the Iranian regime as we are.

MS: Absolutely. Here’s the problem: today, the description of the world is always reduced to yes or no, black or white. Superficial stories. Superhero stories. One side is the good one. The other one is evil. But I’m not a moral lesson giver. It’s not for me to say what is right or wrong. I describe situations as honestly as possible. The way I saw it. That’s why I use my own life as material. I have seen these things myself, and now I’m telling it to you. Because the world is not about Batman and Robin fighting the Joker; things are more complicated than that. And nothing is scarier than the people who try to find easy answers to complicated questions.

BLVR: Superhero stories are the original territory for comic books, with good versus evil. So by deepening the story, are you also commenting on the format?

MS: I just think that comics have always been more than that. They really haven’t always been superheroes. And today, of course, people like Art Spiegelman have shown how truly powerful comics can be. Joe Sacco uses comics as political reporting. So comics are just another medium to express yourself. It’s not cinema; it’s not literature; it’s just something else. It has a specific requirement, which is that images are used to tell the story. There are lots of crappy movies, with guns and action and Arnold Schwarzenegger or whatever. This is not the movies’ fault. It’s the fault of the directors who made those movies. Any medium can only live up to the strengths of the people working in it. If it’s been used to tell bad or boring stories, it’s not a problem with comics; it’s a problem with the writers of those comics.

BLVR: Do you think you reach a broader audience because of your use of comics?

MS: Maybe. Because of the images. You see a picture and you understand perfectly, immediately, the basic thing that’s happening. It’s probably more accessible because we are in a culture of images now. People are used to seeing stories that way. They understand looking at pictures.   Read more here:

C  Simon Hattonstone (2008)

Marjane Satrapi gusts into the room like a hurricane. She is a tiny woman propped up on huge white platform heels. She is dressed in black and is beautiful in a cubist way - Picasso could have sculpted her. Her hair is black, her mouth is a gash of red lipstick, she is talking 20 to the dozen, and smoke seems to be pouring out of every visible orifice. Everything about her is cartoon-like. Which is appropriate because she is best known as a cartoon character in her own comic books.

Satrapi, 38, is the author of Persepolis, a graphic memoir recounting her childhood in Iran, the overthrow of the corrupt Shah, the terror of the Khomeini years, the war with Iraq, the refuge she sought in Europe, and her painful path to adulthood. Persepolis, the Greek name for Persia, is desperately moving and extremely funny - a little girl’s sarcastic love letter to her family. Young Marjane is a stroppy, piss-taking, veil-wearing Marxist-anarchist who embraces her many contradictions with self-absorbed relish. When she’s not preaching communism, she’s predicting her future as a religious prophet; when she’s not pogoing down the streets as a young punk, she’s listening to the turgid prog rock of Camel or the bubblegum pop of Kim Wilde.

Now she has turned the book into an equally brilliant animated film, co-directed with fellow comic book writer Vincent Paronnaud. The movie is as stark and simple as her own drawings (her family could be an Iranian Simpsons - only real), with the added bonus of an expressionist feel that recalls the films of Fritz Lang.

Persepolis has been dismissed by the Iranian authorities as Islamophobic, but Satrapi says this is ridiculous - she is not a political animal or a religious commentator, she is an artist. And while Persepolis is scathing about the hypocrisies and cruelties of Iran’s theocracy, she is equally critical of George Bush’s Christian fundamentalism. She accuses the west of cultural imperialism, saying it always reduces Iran to Hizbullah or 1001 Arabian Nights; the flying carpet or the flying rocket. What she wanted to do in Persepolis was tell her story and show what it means to be Iranian for her.

Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, near the Caspian Sea, and grew up in Tehran, where her father was an engineer and her mother a dress designer. She is descended from Iranian aristocrats - her maternal great-grandfather was Nasser-al-Din Shah, Persian emperor from 1848 to 1896, and her grandfather was a prince. But she stresses this does not make her quite so privileged as it sounds - her great-grandfather had 100 wives. Go back far enough, and you’ll find out most Iranian families are blue-blooded, she says.

Her parents were Marxist intellectuals who enjoyed the good life - they drove a Cadillac, drank alcohol, ate at the best places, were thoroughly westernised. They campaigned against the Shah, and looked forward to the Islamic revolution till it happened. In Persepolis she visits her beloved uncle in jail awaiting execution. After her neighbour’s house is bombed, she finds her best friend’s bracelet in the rubble “attached to something”. The elliptical nature of the storytelling (life-changing events can start and finish in one panel) makes it all the more heartbreaking.

As a child, Satrapi was supremely gobby. Her parents always encouraged her to have her own opinion. She says there is something Hitleresque in her character that she has inherited from her father - she means in the power of her convictions rather than her politics. Satrapi was a sceptic from the off. "If the majority of people were right, we’d be living in paradise. But we are not living in paradise, we are living in hell. What does it mean? That means the majority of people are wrong. So I never believed what people told me."

There were no toys in the house, but more books than she could read. She was an only child and talked and played cards for entertainment. "I always used to win because I cheat." She smiles - a naughty-girl smile. "I mean playing without cheating, what is the point? The second I learned how to play, I learned how to cheat, too." Her parents were nice people, she says - they pretended they didn’t know she was cheating.

But Marjane was a worry for them. When she wasn’t cheating or asking precocious questions she would be out in Tehran buying contraband tapes, spreading the word of western pop and wearing Michael Jackson T-shirts under the veil. Her parents feared she would get into serious trouble with the Revolutionary Guard. Soon after their neighbours were bombed, they sent 14-year-old Marjane away to Austria to study. Part of the problem, she says, is that she was so intelligent, so easily bored by people and their ideas. I ask her whether she has met anybody as intelligent as herself? She shakes her head, and snorts: “No. Maybe Vincent, the guy with whom I made the movie.”

Satrapi could easily be obnoxious, but she’s not - saved by her self-awareness, and her humour. She says that she painted her most accurate self-portrait in her last book, Chicken With Plums, about her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, a musician who played the tar, a long-necked lute. When his wife breaks his instrument, the despairing musician starves himself and takes to his bed to die, which he does eight days later. “He is completely unbearable, narcissistic, egocentric but also lovely and charming. That’s actually how I see myself. You have to be narcissistic to be an artist. You have to think you are the centre of the whole thing otherwise why do you create? The only thing is to recognise it, and then you make the best of it.”

We meet in London. She can’t stand Britain because of the smoking ban. She suggests that we talk in her hotel room because at least she will be able to smoke there. She lives for her cigs, and is quite happy to die for them, she says. “For me smoking is like looking at your soul,” she says in a rasping hybrid accent. "There is something extraordinarily poetic about smoking - from the gesture of holding a cigarette, turning it on, smoking it, the taste of it, the smell of it, I love every-thing about smoking." She has no truck with the kill-joys who want to stop us doing all the things that we enjoy - simply because it might prolong our life. “Anything that has a relationship with pleasure we reject it. Eating, they talk about cholesterol; making love, they talk about Aids; you talk about smoking, they talk about cancer. It’s a very sick society that rejects pleasure.” She’s working herself up into a climax of disgust. "Why should we live like sick people just to give some fresh meat to the ground? I hope my meat is so rotten no worm in the whole universe will want to come and eat it. I want to be rotten to accept the idea of dying. Every day you live you get one day closer to death. If you are never born you will never die. Giving birth is also giving death." She smiles, having hit on the solution to combating death.

It’s not surprising that the teenage Satrapi lost her way in Europe. She expected to find herself in a secular paradise looked after by Zozo, her mother’s best friend. In Persepolis, she imagines how it will be: "It’s going to be cool to go to school with a veil, to not have to beat oneself every day for the war martyrs." In fact, Zozo leaves her in a boarding house run by nuns and Marjane is thrown out for calling the mother superior a prostitute when she says Iranians are “uneducated”. "In every religion you find the same extremists," young Marjane concludes.

Satrapi discovered boys and booze. At her nadir she was peddling drugs, homeless, and she almost died from bronchitis. After four years in Vienna, she admitted defeat, put on her veil and returned home.

Back in Iran, she became even more depressed. She was 19 years old, her friends had rejected her as a western decadent, and she belonged nowhere - a westerner in Iran, an Iranian in the west. She tried to slit her wrists, but failed miserably - a fruit knife was never going to do the trick. She took an overdose of antidepressants, but they just made her sleep for three days.

"This is past, and it really comes from a very dark moment of my life. Dying is…" For once, she fails to complete a sentence. "When people say there is no alternative, there is always an alternative - to die, for example. It’s a choice. You always have this choice."

Her work, like her life, seems to segue from the ecstatic to the depressive. "Well depressive, I don’t know. If you have a little sensibility or a heart you have all the reason to be depressed once in a while. But the depression is like a motor for creation. I need a little bit of depression, a bit of acid in my stomach, to be able to create. When I’m happy I just want to dance."

She studied graphic arts in Iran and at 21 married a young artist who turned out to be her polar opposite. He allowed her to do what she wanted, but she still felt imprisoned. A month later they were in separate beds, three years later they were divorced.

As a young woman, she says, she got things so wrong. "I was so stupid when I was 20. I could do mathematics extremely quickly so I had this kind of intelligence, but the intelligence of life I didn’t have. I was too aggressive, making all the bad choices, believing I was a nice person and I was not, believing I was a mean person and I wasn’t. Everything I thought was wrong. With age things become better and better."

At 24, she returned to Europe, and did a second art degree in Strasbourg. She supported herself by teaching aerobics and languages. When she finished studying she expected to be feted, but no one was interested. “When you go to art school you think you are the centre of the universe, the next Pablo Picasso, you’ll come out of the art school and everyone will say, ‘Pablo where were you? We were all waiting for you.' But nobody is waiting for you. Not only are they not waiting for you, they make you that.” She gives me the finger. "That is the way it was. They were right to reject me. I reworked the projects they rejected and they became better."

I tell her she’s still got something of the young punk about her today. No, she protests, she is every inch the bourgeoise. "I’m a lady." She likes the sound of lady so much that she repeats it, running it off her tongue with lascivious delight. "I’m a lady." She likes to mislead people, she says. "It is better not to look like what you are; it is better to look like a bourgeois woman because then all the doors are open for you and then you can just go and make hell. That is much more exciting." She despairs at the lack of ambition in today’s youth. "Their dream is to become Paris Hilton."

Satrapi, who has lived in Paris for 12 years, says there is so much to fear in today’s world - the potential for nuclear weapons in Iran, the actuality of nuclear weapons in the US; the blind faith of both Bush and Iran’s president Ahmadinejad, who trust more in God than political process. Even the French are voting for the politics of fear and loathing, she says with contempt.

She thinks the world is headed for disaster now there is no counter to capitalism. "Now China has become capitalist, we are all going in the same direction. I am not defending communism, but when you have a power that goes in one direction, you need a power that goes in the other direction. Another thing is that for 10 years we have been naming the evil - pointing to ‘the axis of evil’. Naming the evil is the most dangerous thing to do; that is the beginning of fascism. If the evil is the people of one place or one country, well, let’s go and exterminate all of them… I am just an artist and my duty is to ask questions."

Her identity as an artist was shaped in 1995 when she was given Art Spiegelman’s classic Holocaust comic book, Maus, as a birthday present. She had no idea art could tell stories in such a way. Satrapi decided the comic book would be her chosen form. She was rejected time and again. She went to see the art director of one prominent French publisher who hated her work so much he became angry. “He said you don’t have any style, it goes in all different directions, and I came home depressed and cried for a whole week. Then two years after Persepolis was published and I got some prizes and I had a name, the secretary of this guy called me and he says, this guy wants to see you. So I went with the same book as I had been to see him with before, and he was like, ‘What courage! You have tried all these different styles.’ I said that’s not what you told me three years ago. And he said, ‘Did I see you three years ago?’ And I said, ‘You don’t have a very good memory, but I do.” She laughs. “We ended up working together. I’m not a revenger kind of person.”

She started writing Persepolis when she was 29 in 1999, and it was published the following year. If she had written it 10 years earlier it would have been rubbish, she says, because it would have been too angry. Back then, her world was simply divided into goodies and baddies. Whereas the extremists of her youth took the shape of mullahs, now she sees them everywhere. “I am against fundamentalism. I am not against any religion, Islam, Judaism, Christianity etc. It is the use of an ideology to kill people that I am against.” She is not critical of the veil per se, she is critical of its imposition. "I really believe in a society where if someone wants to walk in the street completely naked they will be able to, and if someone wants to wear a veil they will also be able to."

Is she religious? “Religion is a very personal affair. It’s between someone and what he considers the god, or the supreme spirit or whatever, and it’s very good while it remains personal. The second it becomes public, it’s no good. And that’s why I don’t make it public either.”

When Persepolis was published she thought 300 people would buy it “to help this poor Iranian girl living in Paris”. So far it has sold well over a million copies and has been translated into 24 languages. (Satrapi herself speaks six languages - Farsi, French, German, English, Swedish, Italian.) What has delighted her is the story’s universal appeal - it’s not just about Iran, it’s about growing up in any place with problems.

There is still something rootless about Satrapi. Now that the French have banned smoking in public places, she is looking to move again - perhaps to Greece. She has not returned to Iran, where her parents still live, for eight years. She does not know how safe she would be in Iran, where her books are available in samizdat form. She fears she might be thrown into jail - not a risk she is prepared to take.

For now, perhaps her main contact with Iran is through her work. The film of Persepolis, which was nominated for the best animated feature Oscar, features the voice of her all-time hero Iggy Pop, and those of Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands and Chiara Mastroianni, as young Marjane. "For me Iggy Pop is a crooner, but he’s a desperate, angry crooner." A similar marriage of the tender and the spiky, the humane and the misanthropic, is what makes her work so memorable. Her greatest creations are representations of the family members she most loves; the sexy grandmother who would bathe her breasts in milk to keep them firm; the charismatic father who adored his life of luxury every bit as much as his Marxist-Leninist ideology; the thoroughly modern mother who wept when her daughter married so young.

She is amazed how life has worked out. In France, she married a man about whom she will say nothing other than that he is Swedish. They have no children. "I don’t understand when people say it is so natural to make children… I want to devote my life to my art. And I know if I’m a man and I say that I would be this great artist who sacrifices life for his talent, but since I am a woman I become this ambitious bitch who doesn’t want to have kids. Some people think like that, but I don’t care."

Now she has sufficient distance from the past, she can see that things are probably as good as they get. "I’m this woman coming from Iran, I’ve succeeded in what I wanted, I live in the city I want, I live with the man I want, I make the work I want, and they pay me for it, which is incredible. How many people in the world have this luck?"


D  Kristin Hohenadel (2007)

Marjane Satrapi’s life was flashing before her eyes. There she was, a mischievous girl on the streets of Tehran, buying contraband records during the Islamic revolution. Singing the lyrics in her bedroom at the top of her teenage lungs. Fidgeting with her head scarf at the lycée. Mourning the political imprisonment of her uncle. Falling in love for the first time. Saying goodbye to her beloved parents as they sent her, their only child, to find freedom and solace in the West.

“Imagine you see your face everywhere — from the back, from the front, as a girl, adolescent, everywhere,” Ms. Satrapi, 37, said during the making of an animated movie based on her best-selling and critically praised comic-book memoir, “Persepolis.” The original version, in French, includes the voices of the legendary French actress Danielle Darrieux as her grandmother, Catherine Deneuve as her mother and Chiara Mastroianni — the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Ms. Deneuve — as Marjane. An English-language adaptation, which will also include Ms. Deneuve, with Gena Rowlands as the grandmother, is scheduled to be released by Sony Pictures Classics this year.

Ms. Satrapi has drawn herself thousands of times. But she found it initially overwhelming to watch her own vivid gestures animated on computer screens in the skylighted atelier that is the film’s headquarters in the 10th Arrondissement. Eventually, she said, she learned to put emotional distance between herself and her character.

“From the beginning I started to talk about ‘Marjane’ and ‘Marjane’s parents,’ ” she explained, “because you cannot do it otherwise. There are people, for example, drawing my grandmother. My grandmother is dead. Here not only is she moving, but I have to look at her, image by image. If I think, ‘This is my grandmother and my story,’ I would start crying all the time. And it’s not easy for the animators if I start talking about me, me, me. I will make them crazy, and they will be walking on eggshells. They won’t let themselves go.

“When my parents came to the studio, nobody breathed. Imagine you are drawing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, and suddenly a big mouse and a big duck walk in.”

Ms. Satrapi’s poignant coming-of-age story is drawn in a simple yet evocative style, which conveys maximum feeling with deceptively naïve images in minimalist black and white. It was first published in 2000 in France, where she has lived in self-imposed exile for 12 years. When the book was released in the United States in 2003, she said, Hollywood executives offered to buy the rights for adaptations that included a “Beverly Hills, 90210”-esque series set in Tehran. An ardent filmgoer who has served as a juror at the Cannes Film Festival, she concluded that making a filmed version of her own story was a bad idea.

“Normally when you make a movie out of a book, it’s never a success,” she said over her morning espresso and cigarettes, wearing all black and her trademark platform heels. But when Marc-Antoine Robert, an acquaintance and fledgling producer, offered to raise money to make the movie in France, Ms. Satrapi agreed under what she presumed were impossible conditions: despite having no filmmaking experience, she wanted to direct the movie herself, in black and white. And she wanted Catherine Deneuve to play her mother.

Ms. Satrapi teamed up with Vincent Paronnaud, a fellow comic book author who has also made a few short films. “We’re like the Coen brothers,” she said of herself and Mr. Paronnaud, who co-wrote and is co-directing the film. “We’re very complementary. I would have made much more of a Bergman movie. But I don’t want something that a couple of intellectuals in Paris and New York will watch and nobody else.”

It was Mr. Paronnaud who pushed her to dramatize emotional and violent sequences that she had insinuated in the book. “Vincent is good at knowing where the camera should go, how to cut to give scenes rhythm,” Ms. Satrapi said. “People were thinking, if you just film the frames of the book, you have a movie. If you just film the book, it would be extremely boring.” She and Mr. Paronnaud picked their moments and condensed the book into a 90-minute film, told as a flashback.

“In no way did we want to betray the book, but we had to make choices,” Mr. Paronnaud said. “The idea was to keep the spirit and energy of the book and to try and find a way to interpret it differently on film.”

Ms. Satrapi said she wrote “Persepolis” as an answer to the relentless and loaded question of what it means to be Iranian. But her book’s success has meant that she has both gently educated those in the West — “Persepolis” is taught in 118 colleges in the United States, including West Point, according to Pantheon, its publisher — and taken part in a larger conversation about the book’s global resonances.

“Little by little, as the book got translated in other languages, people were saying, ‘This is my story too,’ ” she said. “Suddenly I said to myself, ‘This is a universal story.’ I want to show that all dictatorships, no matter if it’s Chile, if it’s the Cultural Revolution in China or Communist Poland, it’s the same schematic. Here in the West we judge them because we are so used to democracy, believing that if we have something, it is because we deserve it, because we chose it. Political changes turn your life completely upside down, not because you are crazy but because you don’t have any way out.”

The executive producer of “Persepolis” is Kathleen Kennedy, a veteran Hollywood producer who approached Ms. Satrapi after the film was in production, asking to buy the rights. Ms. Satrapi declined to sell but welcomed her involvement. Ms. Kennedy found an American distributor, providing an infusion of cash while leaving Ms. Satrapi in creative control, a rare occurrence for a black-and-white animated film in progress from a pair of first-time directors.

“Persepolis” is a rarity in France: an animated feature that was entirely produced here, rather than being farmed out to Asian animators. The filmmakers favored an artisanal approach that includes hand-tracing the images on paper, an art long lost to computer animation software.

“It’s not that they do lesser work in Asia, but it’s complicated to communicate with people 10,000 kilometers away,” said Marc Jousset, the film’s art and technical director, who assembled the animation team. “Marjane is here every day. She implicates herself in every decision. And even if she had never done an animation sequence, she has given us courses in things like how the head scarf is worn at home versus on the street in Iran, things that are important for the rigor of the story.”

Mr. Jousset said it took a few months to find the right style of animation. Characters are depicted in black and white, as they are in the comic book, while the settings are richly shaded in grays that lend them a painterly quality. “The narration had to be somewhat somber and restrained, and I saw a lot of animators with too cartoonish of a style,” Mr. Jousset said. “It’s an animated film, but we wanted it to be rather realistic, as if it was being filmed live.”

The voices were recorded before the animators began work, with Ms. Satrapi coaching the actors one on one. (Aghast at the prospect of bossing Ms. Deneuve around, she said, she downed three cognacs before directing the actress, who turned out to be “funny and intelligent and a big smoker.”) Ms. Satrapi allowed herself to be recorded while acting out the physical gestures for each scene, to give the animation team a physical reference.

“We could do any number of movements to coordinate with the words,” said Christian Desmares, the chief animator, “but Marjane wanted to really personalize each character, to use precise Iranian gestures. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Ms. Satrapi interjected: “I play all the roles. Even the dog.”

It took an adjustment, she added, to transform herself from a solo artist into the co-leader of a 90-member filmmaking team, though she has gotten some practice in group dynamics by lecturing regularly in Europe and the United States.

“I realized I had a talent I didn’t know,” she said. “In France people will tell you everything is impossible. I have the enthusiasm of an American. I tell people: ‘Rah, yes! We’re going to make a great movie.’ And it pays; you can see their reaction. And suddenly you realize they have ideas that you didn’t have. It is hard for me, for my ego, to say this: For me, the movie is better than the book.”

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Khadim Ali (born 1978) Pakistan/ Australia

The Haunted Lotus   gouache, ink and gold leaf on wasli paper,   70 x 54 cm


(C16th) Persia   Khusraw discovers Shirin bathing in a pool  ink, opaque watercolor, silver and gold on paper 31.1 × 19.7cm

A   The haunted lotus considers family, the Hazara people and culture, and the emergence of a lawless society in contemporary Afghanistan.

In this exhibition Khadim Ali wrestles with the violence he experienced in Afghanistan through images that interpret a mythological past – the 10th-century Persian epic poem, the Shahnameh or ‘Book of kings’.

Influenced by Persian miniatures, his images on paintings and rugs depict demons from the Shahnameh in a complex act of identification with demonised – or dehumanised – people.

‘My demons are the story of my historical self and a people who are displaced and shelterless in the world. Demonising is the dehumanising of the Hazaras and forcing them to an indescribable dominion where they must abide by a civil law that does not protect them.’ – Khadim Ali, 2013

Made in collaboration with weavers in Afghanistan, this is the first time Ali has used the medium of rug-making [inspired by] the survival of a rug from Ali’s bombed home.

 B   When I am doing the artwork I never think about people looking at it. It is a visual diary, a connection with myself. I want it to be pure. It is my own history and very present at that moment. Khadim Ali

He addresses the issues of displacement, of migration of meaning and identity, of where you decide to pull that to form who you are, and he has really been an articulate advocate for his people. Suhanya Raffel, Art Gallery of NSW.

C   Khadim Ali is a member of the Hazara community from the central mountainous area of Afghanistan called Hazarajat. Ali’s artistic practice is directly informed and influenced by his family’s plight in exile and their experience of continued violence in northern Pakistan, where they now live.

Trained in the discipline of Persian manuscript painting, Ali is inspired by his rich cultural heritage in the creation of introspective, jewel-like paintings that convey the complex history of this region. Eclectically rich in iconography drawn from Eastern and Western art histories, Ali’s work provocatively engages with ideas of social and religious prejudice and its effect on the way history is written and remembered, particularly in times of war.

Khadim Ali completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Miniature Painting) at the National School of Art, Lahore, Pakistan, in 2003, and has exhibited widely in Pakistan, as well as in Iran, Japan and Afghanistan.

D   Khadim Ali was born in 1978 in Quetta, Pakistan, as an Afghan refugee. His family, belonging to the Hazara minority, fled Afghanistan to escape Taliban persecution. From 1998–99, he studied mural painting and calligraphy in Tehran, Iran. He earned a BFA at the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan (2003), where he studied traditional miniature painting. He completed artist residencies in Japan through the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (2006) and Arts Initiative Tokyo (2007). Ali moved to Sydney in 2010 and earned an MFA at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (2012).
Haunted by the March 2001 Taliban destruction of two monumental 6th-century Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan (the Ali family’s ancestral home, located 150 miles northwest of Kabul), the artist returned to the town in 2006 and conducted The Bamiyan drawing project as part of his participation in the 5th Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia (2006), for which he invited area children to depict local stories. Then, during his residency in Fukuoka later that year, he asked Japanese children to respond to the Afghan children’s images. The drawings became the basis of the series Absent Kitchen (2006– ). Ali returned to Bamiyan again in April 2008 and embarked on a collaboration with Lebanese-Canadian artist Jayce Salloum titled the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart (2008–11). This poetic documentary account of the ruins of the Bamiyan Buddhas and the valley’s current conditions takes the form of a layered installation of photographs, videos, documents, objects, and paintings.

E   Born in 1978, Khadim Ali grew up in the city of Quetta, Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.Trained in the art of contemporary miniature painting at the prestigious National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan, and in mural painting and calligraphy at Tehran University, Iran, Ali is inspired by his rich cultural heritage and employs traditional artistic techniques to explore the region’s complex history. His work is provocative in confronting the social and religious prejudice his family has faced, and considers the effect of such bias on the writing of history, particularly during wartime. In this series, Ali references the thousand-year-old Persian epic the Shahnameh (Book

of kings), one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature. For centuries, this text has served as inspiration for artists, particularly those from Iran, Afghanistan, and northwestern Pakistan; as a young child, Ali would sit with his grandfather as he sang its vivid sagas. Composed of some fifty thousand verses, the Shahnameh recounts the myths, legends, and history of Iran from the beginning of time to the Arab conquest in the seventh century. One of its mythological heroes is Rustam, the powerful winged god of Persia, known for his extraordinary strength, bravery, and loyalty. As part of an ethnic minority known as the Hazara, Ali’s family was attacked repeatedly by the Taliban, a fundamentalist Muslim group that controlled much of Afghanistan. Ali has used his art to respond to this brutality. Through the medium of miniature painting, he explores storytelling and reveals how established cultural icons can be subverted to serve multiple ends in contemporary life and politics. The work stems from an encounter Ali had with a young boy named Rustam who was unaware that his namesake was a mythological character from the Shahnameh. His only association with his name was through the Taliban, who used it to enforce an image of omnipresent vigilance.

By associating itself with the kings and heroes of the past, the Taliban seeks to cast itself as an organization of legitimate rulers. Ali inserts personal symbols to counter the hijacking of his culture. For example, the red rope in some of his works is a memorial to those who were killed under the Taliban regime. In these works, warrior-like figures pose as kings, but remain ogres.

ABCTV News story on the artist.

AGNSW exhibition The Haunted Lotus

Asia Society interview with the artist.

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Shirin Neshat born 1957, Iran; lives and works, USA

Documentary about the making of Tooba (2002) and other film/video-works

Turbulent (1997)

Soliloquy (1999)

excerpt from Posessed (2001) 

excerpt from Passage (2001)

excerpt from Possessed (2001)

Rapture (1999)

excerpt from Fervor (2000)

Shirin Neshat, born 1957 in Iran; lives and works in USA.

Speechless (1996) gelatin silver photograph with ink calligraphy

On Guard (1996) gelatin silver photograph and ink

Rebellious Silence (1994) gelatin silver photograph and ink 36x28cm

Untitled (1996) gelatin silver photograph and ink

Offered Eyes (1993)  gelatin silver photograph and ink

On Guard (1996)  gelatin silver photograph and ink

My House is on Fire  from the Book of Kings series (2012) gelatin silver & ink, 119.7x152.4cm

Nida (Patriots)  from The Book of Kings series, 2012 ink on silver gelatin print, 152.4 x 114.3cm

watch: The artist discusses her practice on ted.

Opening of The Book of Kings exhibition in Beijing.

A  Shirin Neshat’s powerful photographs and video installations illuminate the gender and cultural conflicts of her native Iran. 

Neshat left Iran to study art in Los Angeles in 1974, just prior to the Iran Islamic Revolution; she did not return until 1990. At that time, Neshat began to photograph herself wearing the chador, orveil. In 1983, Islamic law dictated the wearing of chador for women. Much of Neshat’s work examines the physical, emotional, and cultural implications of veiled women in Iran.

Her work, which has never been shown in Iran, essentially declares the female presence in a male dominated culture. In her films and photographs, the female gaze becomes a powerful and dangerous instrument for communication.

Her first series of photographs, Woman of Allah, 1993–97, combines images of women with written words taken from religious texts. Neshat further explored cultural taboos through video and video installations.

In 1997, she won the 48th Venice Biennial prize for her film Turbulent, which contrasts a man singing in front of an all-male audience, with a woman singing to an empty concert hall. Her work has been shown throughout Europe and the United States. She currently lives in New York and frequently travels to Iran, though the majority of her work is filmed in Morocco, Turkey, and the United States.

B Shirin Neshat’s photographs and video installations explore the cultural issues that shape her native Iran, with particular emphasis on the experience of women. She grew up in a westernized, upper middle class family in Iran and attended college in the U.S. 

Returning to Iran in 1990, she was stunned by the cultural shifts that had resulted from the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of a conservative Islamic republic. Neshat began making art about the collision of western and eastern ideologies, which had profoundly impacted her and her family’s lives.  

On Guard is part of a series of photographs entitled “Unveiling” (1993–97). To make these works, Neshat put on a chador, a large black cloth worn by some Iranian women to cover their head and body while in a public space. She photographed the parts of her body that the chador left uncovered: her eyes, hands, and feet. Neshat then inscribed the photographic prints with contemporary Farsi love poetry.

In this image of her hands clasping a microphone, the text forms a veil-like screen over her skin. On Guard exemplifies the dichotomies that have shaped contemporary Iranian society: man and woman; communication and silence, and freedom and oppression.


C Shirin Neshat is among the best-known Persian artists in the Western world. She has lived in the United States, in self-imposed exile from her native Iran, for most of her adult life. This experience, of being caught between two cultures, dominates Neshat’s creative work: each of her pieces offers a glimpse into the complex social, religious and political realities that shape her identity—and the identities of Muslim women worldwide.

Neshat’s provocative photographs, videos and multimedia installations have resonated with the curators of many major international art exhibitions, including the XLVIII Venice Biennale, where she won the top prize in 1999. Her first feature film, Women Without Men, tells the stories of four women struggling to escape oppression in Tehran. It won her the Silver Lion for best director at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.


 D Sherin Neshat grew up in the ancient city of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran. When she travelled to America in 1974 to study art, she had no idea that the Shah would soon be deposed. In 1979 Iran underwent a cultural revolution under the fundamentalist Islamic rule of Ruhollah Khomeini and the Ayatollahs. The Iran of Neshat’s childhood was extinguished. In 1990, after the Ayatollah Khomeini died, Neshat was able to make her first journey home. In returning she experienced the profound difference between modern Iran and the Iran of her childhood - a culture still connected with Persia. Iranians were living a completely different life style from when she left. The Eastern-Islamic values of her childhood were now in utter contradiction with current Iranian society. The changes were particularly evident in the position of women.

 In Iran gender roles are quite unlike like those in Western societies. Neshat’s works address the place of women in a determinedly patriarchal culture. In her video Passage (2001), masses of women and masses of men prepare separately for a burial ritual in the desert. The action is dance-like. The work is an intense invocation on behalf of a body cherished by all gathered. The score - by the great American composer Philip Glass - is achingly poignant.

At home neither in the new Iran nor in the West, but engaged with both, Neshat is a cross-cultural artist. Neshat creates her art - born out from the Islamic nature of Iranian culture - in response to this sense of living ‘in between’ America and Iran. Avoiding rhetoric and political agenda, she reaches out for more universal meanings.

Her two-screen video installation Tooba (2002) was inspired by Shahrnoush Parsipour’s contemporary novel Women without Men. Tooba is the name of a scared tree mentioned in the Koran. Neshat places the tree in an enclosed garden as a sign ‘a spiritual longing for paradise and a quest for political power’. Curator Melissa Chiu writes: ‘Neshat draws on her cultural heritage to create works that communicate universal ideas about loss, meaning and memory. In Tooba, she engages the viewer in a visual conversation that explores issues such as the immigrant experience, tradition versus modernity, the position of women and the complexities of Islam.’

Another two-screen video installation, Soliloquy (1999), renders East and West as cultures in exile from each other. Here, women are the representatives of difference. Soliloquy stars the artist as protagonist. Neshat plays an observer, residing in neither East nor West. A windswept Turkish landscape and a deserted American street seem more parallel than divergent.

Romantic, poetic, mythic… this is a great opportunity to experience eloquent images by one of the world’s most talked about artists.

E The new photographic series, titled The Book of Kings, is named after the ancient book Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), a long poem of epic tragedies written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 AD. Shahnameh retells the mythical and historical past of Greater Iran from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th Century. Divided into three groups—the Masses, the Patriots, and the Villains—Neshat’s portraits of Iranian and Arab youth comprise black and white photographs with meticulously executed calligraphic texts and drawings inscribed over each subject’s face and body. These texts and illustrations—drawn from Shahnameh as well as from contemporary poetry by Iranian writers and prisoners—both obscure and illuminate the subjects’ facial expressions and emotive intensity, intimately linking the current energy of contemporary Iran with its mythical and historical past.  In this arresting body of work, Neshat returns to the confrontational nature of her iconic Women of Allah series, while re-focusing on themes of revolution and the bold-faced defiance of youth.

In her new three-channel video installation, Neshat draws upon themes of justice and the struggle of the artist against the constraints of authoritarian rule. Creating a space where moral judgment is questioned and the viewer’s allegiances oscillate between identifying with the victim and being accomplice to power, Neshat investigates the repressed and unspoken elements of social and cultural consensus through this bold new work.

F  Shirin Neshat is known for her video installations and photographs which explore immigrant experiences and dramatically confront the stereotypes of Muslim women.

Born in Iran in 1957, Neshat has lived in the United States since the early 1970s. She first received international recognition during the mid 1990s for her Women of Allah series, depicting women wearing the veil and holding guns with Iranian women’s poetry inscribed in Farsi across their faces and hands. Such images examine how human beings are trapped in social, cultural and political conditioning.

Neshat describes her work as a visual discourse on the subject of feminism and contemporary Islam, drawing on her personal experiences.

This two-screen installation, Tooba, is inspired by Shahrnoush Parsipour’s contemporary novel Women without Men and uses mythology drawn from the Koran. Conceived in the form of a poetic allegory, the work reveals that even in paradise there is conflict. It is accompanied by a series of the artist’s photographs.

 the artist’s words  

“Every Iranian artist, in one form or another, is political. Politics have defined our lives.”

“In this Western world that we have, culture risks being [only] a form of entertainment.”

I see my work as a visual discourse on the subjects of feminism and contemporary Islam - a discourse that puts certain myths and realities to the test, claiming that they are far more complex than most of us have imagined… I consider myself a passionate inquirer. I prefer raising questions as opposed to answering them as I am totally unable to do otherwise, and I am not interested in creating works that simply state my personal political point of view..

I come from a world which is in every respect a total anithesis of the Western world and which currently represents the greatest threat to Western civilization…The challenge for me is to mediate between these cultures, the Orient and the Occident. Neshat in 50 Women Artists You Should Know.

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Museum of Modern Art New York multimedia page about Neshat’s practice

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York page about Neshat’s Women of Allah series of photographs



Berlin based urban artist KEN aka Plotbot

(via devidsketchbook)

exposure equivalence
combinations of aperture and shutter speed which give equivalent exposure on your camera
source: marco crupi visual artist on flickr

exposure equivalence

combinations of aperture and shutter speed which give equivalent exposure on your camera

source: marco crupi visual artist on flickr

Jennifer Mills (b. 1966) Australia

watercolour, ink,  oil pastel

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Those familiar with Mills’ work will recognise her technical mastery of watercolour with which she intricately renders her subjects, and the oil pastel overlays which partially conceal these underlying images. The animals in question wear these smears and tattoos, and sometimes hide behind them. It is these markings which have evolved from abstract lines into specific images, revealing drawing within drawing. They still appear as spontaneous as scribbles, however more articulate. Self portraiture has played an increasing role in Mills’ practice.


Scott Campbell.

Visual InvestigationS

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