Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia is the perfect fusion of East and Western culture. For curator Sara Makari-Aghdam, whose personal heritage spreads from exotic Persian landscapes to the more local regions of Northern England, this blending of cultures is instinctive. Her inspiration for this exhibition stemmed not only from these exotic personal roots, but also from her discovery of her father’s Persian pop cassette collection. Music is one of many key influences, manifesting itself physically with an array of vinyl record covers littering the walls.
Culture and history are intrinsically bound up in each other, not only the personal histories and family origins, but also the history of Iran itself. The transition from a liberated country that allowed its artist’s the greatest freedom of expression, to a more censored and repressed country whose social-political landscape was forever changed by revolution. Yet Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia does not fixate on the restrictions that revolution imposed; instead it celebrates the freedom of creativity.
The exhibition bursts with colours that range from dark and dirty umbers, to piercing cadmium blues. Hues expand throughout the room and patterns litter every corner in some way, whether it is as a dress draped across a mannequin, or as a collaged matchbox. The vibrancy of each and every item is hard to ignore, particularly given the highly tactile content of the exhibition. There are items of vintage clothing embellished with brooches or heavy dripping jewellery. Delicate and precariously balanced plinths display shoes, carefully hand-painted in wondrous colours and swirls. A light box includes all sorts of treasures such as feather boas, dangling beads and fake flowers and is highly evocative of religious shrines. There is even a mindmap belonging to artist Afsoon, which documents the life of the show’s curator. Sara Makari-Aghdam’s personal heritage is traced through the mindmap’s collected objects that compose it, such as stamps, tea towels, post cards, tapestries, beads.
Collecting is evidently an important aspect of the exhibition, whether this is in Afsoon’s habit of gathering vintage matchboxes and market items or Sara Makari-Aghdam’s collection of vintage clothing from America and 1960s and 70s vintage fashion magazines. Perhaps this ritual of collecting stems from an attempt to reclaim the loss of a past through found objects. The loss of Iran as it used to be and what is used to allow; how erotic and explicitly nude female bodies were displayed on record covers which would be a sin in present-day Iran. Objects not only act as documents of time, but they are also filled with sentimentality.
The collection of items that are present within the show vary greatly and include everything from vintage magazines to family photos. Each item present has a purpose, a story and a history. Every object comes together in the way a jigsaw would to reveal an exciting dynamism. Colour, culture, tactility, emotion, personal travels and a country’s history all come together to form an exhibition that bursts with the vibrancy of life.
Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia continues at Vane until 4 June 2016.
Images: Afsoon, Googoosh, from the ‘Fairytale Icons’ series, 2010, digital print on Somerset paper, 42x59cm; Khosrow Hassanzadeh, Googoosh, from the ‘Ready To Order’ series, 2007-08, mixed media, lightbox, 213x132x25cm; Malekeh Nayiny, Friday at my Grandmother’s house, from the ‘Updating a Family Album’ series, 2004, digital chromogenic print, 90×75.7cm