‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’ is a unique exhibition unlike anything I’ve seen in Newcastle before, despite having lived here for almost three years now. This show perfectly encapsulates what contemporary art represents. It is about making art in the present and using this as a platform to reflect and comment on the world around us. The strength of this show lies in its explorations of history; the revolution in Iran and how an oppressive regime followed, forcing artists and musicians to close shop and adapt to more censored ways of working. Yet throughout the show this historical narrative is not overly explicit and loud in its protest, but instead it is subtle and sophisticated. Snapshots of the world and stories of the past come through in the objects, in the travelling and collection process that has been carried out.
One of the things I love most about this exhibition is it creates a real sense of the nomadic lifestyle. The evidence of travelling to far flung places and finding hidden gems is entirely present throughout. It makes me want to be more imaginative with my findings. I am a sentimental person in the sense that I have an old shoe box filled with my special moments. The box contains what would be considered throwaway items to most people, such as a cinema ticket or a used stamp, but for me these little things hold precious memories. My box contains items such as concert tickets, doodles done on restaurant napkins, brooches, Kinder Egg toys, clothes labels, cards I’ve been sent, photographs, plastic and childish rings, the list goes on. Now, some people may consider that junk and to an extent I suppose it is, but each of those items retains a precious moment for me; a good time where I was laughing with my siblings or joking with my boyfriend. Through items we capture and record life and ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’is the perfect example of this.
Having lived and travelled a lot throughout my life, it’s fair to say I have my fair share of collected exotic items. Little marble statues from India, patterned scarves from Kenya, silver rings from Oman, postcards from all over Scotland. These items are the little jigsaw pieces that come together to document my life and where I’ve been. I love the surprise of going into an old handbag pocket and finding within it a keyring I picked up on my travels. Much like curator Sara Makari-Aghdam, I find stories in the items we keep and I think that is why I love this exhibition so much, because I can truly relate to it. Sara discovered her father’s old cassette collection of Persian pop music years ago and it has fueled and inspired this show. What I find most intriguing about objects is their own personal journey; if it’s a vintage dress who owned it before it was procured? What kind of occassions was it worn to? Was the person told by their lover that they look lovely? Looking at old items, all these questions come flooding to my mind. Through objects a strong sense of presence comes through and in ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’, this presence is excitedly overwhelming.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot more about my body against the natural environment and of possible places to shoot. I’m interested in how different environments create different messages when the body is posed in a particular setting. Such as with my graveyard and park shoot pictured above (click here to see post). Those were two selected settings with a chosen purpose at a certain time. My boyfriend was very kindly the photographer and it was interesting working with him and taking on board his notions of the surroundings. Varying interpretations are created all the time in artwork and it’s a really important thing to be aware of, particularly given that I work with the female body in the climate of social media and society’s conventional expectations of what beauty is and should be.
I like the idea of shooting in a setting that has some personal attachment to me. I don’t just want to use anywhere as a canvas for my body. The personal relationship to place is integral as that is the only way I feel I can translate the intimate relationship I have with my body into the image. So I started thinking about places that I had been and thought back to The Empty Quarter in Oman, Middle East. It is one of those places that has really stuck with me throughout my life. The powerful feeling of solitude and silence in this empty wilderness leaves a lot for thought. When I think of Oman, I think of beaches, water, diving, mountains and here. There are no words to describe the beauty of this endless desert. We camped there meaning we got to see the transition from scorching hot sunlight, to a glowing sunset that never seemed to end. We climbed to the very top of the sand dune (which gave us all a good dose of exercise!) and we were greeted by the view I’ve captured in these images.
The photographs definitely do not do this place justice, but they draw me back in as if I have never left given my experience of it. I feel like I can enter that image and fall back into the slippery sand that would not leave my socks, feel it tickle the backs of my legs, feel the warmth of the sun and the slight discomfort of the humidity. This is why I need to work with a location which has some form of nostalgia, or that was from a different time in my life. I like the idea of bringing the past into my work and in a sense bringing the past forwards into the present.
If only I could go back to this beautiful untouched landscape. The dunes sat so perfectly, their lines looked as if they had been drawn with a precise fine liner pen. The sand was so soft in my hands and it danced off into the sunset as I let it go. I would love to go back there and do a subtly nude shoot. Nothing of a sexual nature, just a shoot that encapsulated the female body in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. Sadly I no longer have access to this (maybe one day I’ll return) and as it’s on the border of Saudi Arabia, posing naked in the desert is probably not the best idea!
I am however on the look out for a beautiful place to escape to. I think it’s really healthy to step out of the studio and away from modern day life into nature. And what could be a more perfect way to do so than through the medium of my own body?