Artist/Journalist Haleh Anvari

A couple of weeks ago, Iranian artist and journalist Haleh Anvari performed/presented a piece called “The Power of a Cliché: Representing Iranian Women” at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC, in conjunction with IAAB’s TRANSFORM/NATION art exhibit. She’s pictured here, albeit blurry, with one of her own images that’s part of a larger project called Chadornama, in which she depicts women wrapped in bright chadors.

The Chadornama photographs are very compelling; the women are faceless and, save for one photo, shapeless, but they’re so vibrant and lively even within what essentially amount to bedsheets. But the Power of a Cliché work consisted largely of press images gleaned from her friends and from the Internet, with a sort of electro-muzak soundtrack and Anvari’s spoken word/lecture to accompany the photo slide.

Anvari has worked as a producer for foreign media in Iran, and most palpable in her presentation was anger at the depiction of Iranian women in those same media. The thesis of this piece revolved around the Western gaze on Iran – its objectification of Iranian women and its reduction of Iranian post-revolutionary society to a single piece of cloth, wrapped around women. Also, she made some good points about the history of the chador, which goes back many more years than most people realize.

Spoken word is an extremely difficult genre and the combination of slideshow projection, music, and alternation between what felt like lecture and what was clearly poetry/essaying gave an overall effect of alternating between overly didactic and overly personal. Still, in all, the information in Anvari’s presentation was as compelling as her Chadornama series, and her point was really driven home when she held up The Economist’s recent Riddle of Iran cover during the Q&A session at the end. See Anvari’s website for more.

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