The first re-ordering presents two artists interested in the physical landscape of Iran: one real, one imagined.
#1: Mapping the Archive
The opening post explores the idea that the archive could act as a map or guide for a visitor. Abbas Kowsari documents an ethereal waterscape; Lake Uromiyeh seems to absorb visitors, shimmering, mirage-like. Claudia Parwaneh Djabbari, proposes an imaginary hotel resort, Hotel Dhabbari, planned for the so-called ‘Persian Riviera’. I imagine these as guidebook or travelogue entries, potentially triggering nostalgic memories for those who have visited or know the region, while simultaneously inspiring ‘wanderlust’ in those who dream of visiting from afar.
I invite visitors to this blog to share information, memories or concerns about these places, creating a forum for shared information and enlivening or updating the archive.
In 2009, Abbas Kowsari ‘s photographs entered the MOP CAP archive. The subject matter, Lake Uromiyeh and its visitors, merge together, absorbing each other. The landscape is simultaneously welcoming – the beautifully smooth, glass-like surface – and unsettling: the lack of structures, barely visible shorelines, the people who seem isolated, islanded and searching for something.
The images led me to look, as a tourist might, for further information about the lake. I learned of its supposed healing properties, it high salinity and, shockingly, of its dramatic decrease due to the interference in the natural flow of water by over 50 dams. Compounded by unregulated withdrawal of water, water-intensive irrigation and the unsustainable use of fertilisers, the lake has recently been the subject of research revealing the full extent of its demise: 90% loss of its surface area since the 1970s. A social media campaign including a widely shared hashtag, “I am Lake Urmia”, (من_دریاچه_ارومیه_هستم#), has allowed concerned citizens to raise their voices in solidarity with scientists and environmentalists at pains to explain the impact of the impact on the Lake, the biosphere and the population.
Kowsari’s images now seem to represent a fantastical, endangered and fragile scene, where concerned groups and individuals gather to pay respects to it, perhaps to mourn its passing
Lake Urmia Photograph: Kaveh Madani
In 2013 Claudia Parwaneh Djabbari submitted her work to the MOP CAP archive.
Hotel Djabbari, an imagined, idealised model hotel, eternally ‘under construction’ in the proposed images, combines notions of stereotypical colonial exploration through tourism, in its Orientalized style and upmarket resort styling, with a recognition of the distance between these imagined possibilities with the present-day reality.
Searching for the so-called ‘Persian Riviera’, the setting for Djabbari’s fictional hotel, I found a recent report from CNN of tourism ‘booming’ in Iran http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/05/news/economy/iran-tourism-boom/index.html, and the World Economic Forum’s Report from 2017, which named Iran as the world’s cheapest travel destination.
http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TTCR_2017_web_0401.pdf page 188.
How does this contrast from the ‘Persian Riveiera’ enjoyed in the past? When Tehran was once advertised, in 1977, as the ‘Crossroads of the world’?
Iran Airlines 1977 Advert – Tehran Crossroads of the world; taken from a 1977 magazine, is for Iran Air and shows routes taken out of Tehran on 747’s.
Where is the Iran imagined by Djabbari? Is it lost in transit? Does this fantasy undermine the present, including the realities of the citizens striving, for example, to preserve and replenish Lake Uromiyeh as depicted so beautifully by Kowsari?