Year

2020

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy

Department

School of the Arts, English and Media

Abstract

This visual arts practice-based research project explores the impact censorship and associated restrictions have had on the arts practice of contemporary Iranian artists living both within and outside of Iran. These censorship restrictions followed the Revolution in 1979 which saw the Islamic Republic regime secure power in Iran (Rahimi 2015). The newfound regime restricted and controlled the speed of modernisation in Iran, which it believed was misaligned with its religious principles. Subsequently, new revised censorship guidelines and protocols were introduced that impacted on the activities of the secular art communities. The state monitors artistic activities and will often censor art works, if thought provocative, when exhibited in the public sphere. This project asks how do contemporary Iranian artists navigate and respond to these censorship limitations and what strategies have these artists developed that has enabled them to express their dissatisfaction with the government and exhibit their artworks in the public sphere while circumventing the censorship restrictions and repercussions.

This project encompasses an exhibition of sculptural ceramic works entitled Destined to Distortion, and a supporting exegesis. The exegesis gives an overview of post revolution state-imposed censorship, its impact on visual art practices in Iran, and the artistic strategies adopted by contemporary Iranian artists to circumvent these restrictions. The project focuses on covert artistic strategies developed by artists that enable them to critique the authorities. Through strategies, such as covert narratives and vocabularies using symbols, metaphors and classic stories in their work, artists deploy messages that indirectly challenge the politics of the government. This secret visual language of resistance continues to evolve within the secular art community within Iran.

The creative work draws on a complex intersection of memory, cultural identity, and place and explores the tension and the impact self-censorship continues to have on artists living outside of Iran as they struggle with political and religious ideological divides. Through coded artistic and cultural vocabularies imbedded in clay sculptural forms, the exhibition, Destined to Distortion, navigates an enduring fear of repercussions and the desire to imagine and tell stories openly and freely.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.