Bahman Iranpour (*1987) studied Cultural Studies at Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran. The fundamental aim of his master thesis was to explore how Iranian filmmakers, who mostly considered themselves as independent and alternative artist-activists, organize their practices and how these practices lead to subversive strategies in the field of art production through re-structuring the relation between artists and their publics. His education also includes a B.A. in Cinema from the University of Art, Tehran, and a two-year program with Soore Art University, where he earned his first M.A. in Cinema. He has worked with some artists-run collectives not only as a scholar, but also as a filmmaker. His research interests include self-organized, collaborative and participatory art practices, and community-based art production.
Art and socially engaged practice in contemporary Iran
The dissertation project aims to survey and analyze socially engaged art and social commitment in art in contemporary Iran, with particular emphasis on independent art practices. In doing so, it is important to know how social relations have been working in a specific context, and what kinds of material conditions have been providing possibilities or impossibilities to follow socially committed art practices in Iran.
As the relationships between arts, politics, economy, and the public are shifting, the role of the arts in society is also changing (van den Berg 2013, 2018, 2019). At the same time the border between artistic and social initiatives (van den Berg 2019a) and between art and life (Thompson 2012) as well as artists and curators (Roberts 2010) are blurring. Behind this backdrop, it becomes more and more important to study new forms of artistic practices. The shift to a more democratic and communicative art production is altering the positions of artists in the art field as well as in society, requiring some sort of re-mapping of the present.
Keeping the major national context of Iran in mind, the central objective that this project wants to achieve, therefore, is: Tracking the lineages of the concept of social commitment in Iranian art and rereading the story of socially engaged art through the lens of Iranian modernity, during the period from the Qajars and the Constitutional Revolution of the 1900s to the Pahlavi era, under the reigns of Reza Shah and Muhammad Reza Shah, to present time, the Islamic republic regime. The art that wants to intervene in publics actual lives and tries to participate in the process of social changes. The purpose of this study is locating the concept of socially engaged art in its changing constitutive setting in Iran, tracing the development of social commitment and the actions of the agents who identify themselves as social committed artist, and investigating the social basis of its changing meaning from the very period of modern time in which it is actually observable to the present time. As Gilbert B. Rodman argues, the way for building a better world is to tell stories other “than those we already have”, which means “to write a political history of the present” (2013:351).