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Going Public

Anh-Minh Le | November 4, 2016 | Story Galleries and Performance

This is actually the first sequence of programming from an unprecedented three-year initiative on Iranian art that investigates the multiple contexts that shift and define changing ideas of what constitutes Iranian public space,” says Ala Ebtekar, referring to a long-term effort he is launching. Art, Social Space & Public Discourse in Iran—the first of three annual symposiums—kicks off Nov. 3 at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, with a live-stream from Tomorrow, a coffeehouse in Tehran, Iran. The latter locale will feature naqqali performances that entail oral storytelling based on paintings. The inaugural event then shifts to Stanford University for two days, during which talks, panels and performances are planned. On Nov. 4, for example, the schedule includes a free public outdoor concert at the McMurtry Building, followed by a lecture-performance by Slavs & Tatars. The symposium also intends to highlight new projects issued by visiting artists, among them Mehdi Ghadyanloo, who will be here scouting sites for a mural he will potentially paint next year.

Ebtekar’s own work draws on pop culture and Persian culture. He has exhibited all over the world, and has been recognized by Complex magazine and The Huffington Post as an artist to watch. The Berkeley native graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute and earned his MFA from Stanford University, where he currently teaches Public Space in Iran: Murals, Graffiti, Performance. The course ties into the theme of this year’s symposium; in fall 2017 and 2018, his classes will also connect to the programming for those years. And in between the symposiums, there will be smaller events, such as film screenings and talks, “to keep the thread going,” says Ebtekar. Additionally, he envisions site-specific public performances both on and off campus.

Now through the end of the autumn quarter (Dec. 20), Ebtekar and his students will be working in the McMurtry Building’s Penny & Jim Coulter Art Gallery. Over a two-month period, the space will “constantly evolve,” says Ebtekar, with research projects shown there, as well as students collaborating with guest artists to paint murals on the walls. The public is invited (and encouraged) to visit the gallery.

Originally published in the November issue of Silicon Valley

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