Taher Asad-Bakhtiari | DASTAN OUTSIDE THE BASEMENT
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TEHRAN IRAN
REINVENTION
JUNE 20 TO JUNE 22 2014
DASTAN OUTSIDE THE BASEMENT
TRIBAL WEAVE PROJECT

 

PRODUCED IN IRAN COMBINING AGE-OLD WEAVING TECHNIQUES WITH A MODERN ARTISTIC VISION, ASAD-BAKHTIARI’S TRIBAL WEAVES REINVENT THE KILIM AND THE GABBEH. WOVEN BY SEMI-NOMADIC TRIBAL WOMEN USING ENTIRELY NATURALLY-DYED, HANDSPUN WOOL, EACH PIECE CAN REQUIRE UP TO FOUR MONTHS TO REALIZE, DEPENDING ON SIZE.

 

UNLIKE THE TRADITIONAL IRANIAN CARPET, IRANIAN TRIBAL WEAVES DISPLAY QUITE SIMPLE PATTERNS. THE AESTHETIC CONCEPT BEHIND KILIM AND EVEN MORE SO GABBEH IS A MINIMALISTIC ONE. TRIBAL PEOPLE WEAVE WHAT THEY SEE: THE SKY, THE MOUNTAINS, THE EARTH, THE ANIMALS. OFTEN-TIMES, THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS OF EARTH, SKY, SUN, MOUNTAIN ARE EXPRESSED AS SINGLE BLOCKS OF COLOR, GIVING LIFE TO A RAW, CONDENSED AND VERY IMPACTFUL CONCEPTUAL VISION OF THE NATURAL WORLD.

 

INSPIRED BY THE POWER OF THIS PURITAN PHILOSOPHY, ASAD BAKHTIARI IMAGINES A PROCESS TO FURTHER STRIP THE TRIBAL WEAVE TO ITS BARE ELEMENTS, STARTING WITH THE WEAVING PROCESS ITSELF. A SET OF VERTICAL THREADS (THE WARP) FORM THE BACKBONE ON WHICH ALL WEAVES ARE WOVEN; KILIMS ARE PRODUCED BY INTERWEAVING HORIZONTAL THREADS, WHILE GABBEHS ARE PRODUCED BY TYING PIECES OF WOOL AROUND THE WARP AND CUTTING THEIR LOOSE ENDS. ASAD BAKHTIARI’S INNOVATION COMES FROM EXPOSING PARTS OF THE WARP, REVEALING THE SKELETON OF THE CARPET AND BRINGING IT INTO THE OVERALL DESIGN. ON THE KILIMS, THESE LARGE SECTIONS OF EXPOSED WOOL THREADS – WHETHER NATURAL BEIGE OR NATURALLY COLORED – CREATE A LONG LINEAR FEEL AND A NEW SENSE OF LIGHTNESS. ON THE GABBEHS, THE DELICACY OF THE WARP STANDS IN SHARP CONTRAST WITH THE DENSE AND FLUFFY KNOTS OF THE GABBEH WEAVE. ASAD BAKHTIARI GOES ON TO CREATE AN INDIVIDUAL LACE-LIKE WEAVE ON CERTAIN EXPOSED SECTIONS OF THE WARP – RESULTING IN PIECES THAT ARE CLOSE TO PATCHWORK.

 

FULL IN PARTS, EMPTY IN OTHERS, SEE-THROUGH IN PLACES AND BREATHING AIR, THESE RE-IMAGINED TRIBAL WEAVES IMPRESS AS MUCH AS THEY SURPRISE. IN WEAVERS’ CIRCLES, ASAD BAKHTIARI’S BREAK WITH HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF WEAVING NORM WAS MET WITH SCEPTICISM, BUT THIS IS PART AND PARCEL OF HIS PRACTICE AND A REALITY HE EMBRACES. “CHANGE CREATES RESISTANCE, AND RESISTANCE IN TURN CATALYSES CHANGE”, HE SAYS.

 

RESISTANCE IS A CONCEPT FAMILIAR TO ASAD BAKHTIARI; IN FACT, MOST OF HIS ART IS AN EXERCISE IN RESISTANCE – THE BREAKING OR THE MAKING OF IT. A BREAK WITH TRADITION ALLOWED HIM TO ESTABLISH A NEW BLUEPRINT FOR TRIBAL WEAVES. IN HIS SECOND INNOVATION, ASAD BAKHTIARI TURNS TO THE VERY FABRIC OF TRIBAL WEAVES, AND INTRODUCES POLYURETHANE. THE RESULT IS A COLLECTION OF FLATWEAVES EITHER ENTIRELY WOVEN OUT OF THE NEW FABRIC, OR MIXED WITH VARYING COMBINATIONS OF EXPOSED WARP, POLYURETHANE WEAVE,  FLATWEAVE OR GABBEH WEAVE AND LACE WEAVE. COMPLETELY 21ST CENTURY, THESE RE-INVENTED PIECES OF WOOL AND PLASTIC TAKE ON NEW FUNCTIONS AS WALL PARTITIONS, WALL COVERINGS, FURNITURE SPREADS, CHALLENGING IN THEIR SWEEP THE ORTHODOX NOTION THAT “CARPETS ARE FOR THE FLOOR”.

 

EVERY REINVENTION IS AN EXERCISE IN PROTECTION. FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, IRANIAN TRIBES HAVE PRODUCED ALL SIZES OF KILIMS AND GABBEHS, MOSTLY AS FUNCTIONAL FLOOR COVERINGS, SADDLE BLANKETS, STORAGE BAGS AND PRAYER RUGS. WITH TIME, THE WEAVING COMMUNITY WORKING WITH ASAD BAKHTIARI HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT IF TRIBAL WEAVES ARE TO SURVIVE IN A MARKET DOMINATED BY MACHINE-MADE CARPETS, THEY MUST OFFER A NOVEL AND VIABLE CONCEPT OF FORM AND FUNCTION. THIS, ASAD BAKHTIARI BRILLIANTLY ACHIEVES THROUGH MARRYING THE CRAFT, PRODUCT DESIGN AND AESTHETIC OF TODAY AND YESTERDAY.

 

RECOVERED BARRELS

 

ON EACH AND EVERY CONSTRUCTION SITES THROUGHOUT TEHRAN, AN ODD ITEM RULES. IT IS THE EMPTY OIL BARREL, A METER-HIGH ALUMINUM CYLINDER CONTAINER BUILT BY THE IRANIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM INDUSTRY TO STORE CRUDE OIL. MULTI-FUNCTIONAL, THESE OIL BARRELS ARE USED TO MIX PLASTER, CEMENT, TAR, PAINT AND OTHER CHEMICALS. THEY ARE BATTERED PIECES, WORN BY VARIOUS PHYSICAL TREATMENT AND CORRODED BY CHEMICALS. BUT THEY ARE AN ESSENTIAL TOOL TO THE AFGHAN CREWS WHO WORK ON THESE SITES. THAT’S WHY THEY DON’T USUALLY KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF ASAD BAKHTIARI’S TEAM, WHO COME WITH BRAND NEW BARRELS TO OFFER A SWAP. HOW OFTEN DOES SOMEONE COME AROUND OFFERING YOU A NEW ITEM IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR USED ONE?

 

ASAD BAKHTIARI IS PART OF IRAN’S “OIL BABIES”, A GENERATION BORN AT THE HEIGHT OF THE COUNTRY’S OIL BOOM AND SHORT-LIVED ROMANCE WITH WESTERN POWERS. HE IS AFTER THESE USED BARRELS. IN THEM, HE SEES ART IN THE MAKING. ONCE THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS CAN BE CONVINCED TO EXCHANGE THEIR OLD BARRELS FOR NEW ONES, THE USED BARRELS COME TO THE ARTIST’S WAREHOUSE. EACH BARREL DISPLAYS ITS OWN SCARS AND UNIQUE PATINÉ, DEPENDING ON THE PAINTS, BUILDING MATERIALS OR CHEMICALS THAT WERE MIXED INSIDE IT AND THE OVERALL BATTERING IT RECEIVED. SOME EXHIBIT A BLUE TINT AND LITTLE SIGNS OF MISTREATMENT, OTHERS ARE RUSTED AND BADLY BENT. REGARDLESS, THEY ARE ALL RIPE FOR THE PROCESS THAT WILL TURN THEM INTO ART PIECES. THEY ARE FIRST COMPRESSED IN SIZE WHILE PRESERVING ANY ORIGINAL DENT OR DEFORMITY. THEN, EACH PIECE IS COATED WITH DOZENS OF LAYERS OF RESIN AND POLISHED UNTIL THEIR NATURAL PATINÉ IS FULLY ENHANCED AND THEY ARE STURDY UNDERNEATH AND SMOOTH ALL AROUND.

 

CLEANED AND ALL SPRUCED UP, THE FINISHED PRODUCTS ARE A CROSS BETWEEN RECYCLED ART, ENVIRONMENTAL ART AND UPCYCLE.  EACH ONE IS UNIQUE IN STYLE AND COLOR AND CONTINUE TO BE MULTI-FUNCTIONAL. RESCUED FROM A FATE OF TOTAL DESTRUCTION, ASAD BAKHTIARI’S BARRELS TELL A STORY OF DIVERSION, BARTER, OVERCOMING RESISTANCE, METAMORPHOSIS AND RECOVERY. AS SUCH, THEY STAND AS A TESTAMENT TO IRAN’S MODERN AND TORTUOUS HISTORY: FROM RICHES TO DUST, FROM SHINY NEW TO BATTERED AND BARELY SURVIVING, FROM FRIVOLITY TO AUSTERITY  AND THEN SLOW RE-CONVERSION. AND GREAT RESILIENCE THROUGHOUT. SHINY AND CHESTY IN THEIR NEW OUTFITS, THE BARRELS-TURNED-ART-PIECES STAND AS A SUBTLE REMINDER THAT IN A CITY OF EXTREMES, IT IS THE SIMPLE THINGS THAT TELL THE BIGGEST STORIES. LIKE AN ORDINARY OIL BARREL.