Facets Of Iran – Exhibition Berlin

A group Exhibition at Somos Gallery, Berlin by Mike Marlowe, Jon John and Paul King

Friday 27th May – Thursday 2nd June 2016

The rose and the thorn, and sorrow and gladness are linked together. -Saadi Shirazi

Can we meet others as people and not projections of our romantic notions or our worst nightmares?

This exhibition reflects the experiences of 3 people with distinct impressions of a shared place and time. 

Utilising our combined tools of photography, filmmaking, anthropology, and material art, our work represents glimpses into the richness and diversity of Iranian people and their environment.

We have stepped away from the de-humanising geopolitical headlines to show a Western audience more nuanced and intimate perspectives of the Iranian people.

We remain committed to respecting cultural differences as well as bridging connections to our shared humanity.

We would like to express deep gratitude towards the people of Iran for their unrivalled warmth, hospitality, patience, and generosity.

Inside Iran

by Mike Marlowe

The images in this exhibition take a look inside one of the most misunderstood countries in the world. There is no attempt to include cliché or to fight stereotypes, or even to create pretty pictures. The views are those that can be found by any visitor who is curious about the people and places of Iran.

The exclusion of the classic tourist sites of Persia is deliberate. The intent is to bring to the viewer, as objectively as possible, the every days scenes that anyone would encounter during their own commute to work, or weekend break out of the city.

I have used a subtle blend of colour coupled with my standard practice of presenting a series of photographs that individually have layers of information in them and collectively show insights, but can also raise questions. 

This allows the viewer to place their own stereotypes and impressions over the series and either reinforce their views or be opened to new perspectives. 

Old car in Iran side street
The ubiquitous car of post 1979 Iran. The ex Hillman Hunter from the UK was manufactured in huge numbers near Teheran and they are still widely seen all over the country
Iranian woman smoking sheesha
Sheesha smoking is widespread throughout Iran and is finding new popularity among young people. Women frequent coffee shops with friends to smoke, talk and drink tea
A flower seller in Armenian quarter of Esphahan, Iran
A flower seller in the Armenian quarter of Esphahan, Iran. Older people have led a life witnessing continual change and upheaval. Many have a dignified stoicism that only comes with experience

Hearts in Sorrow:

A Story of Ashura in Iran

by Jon John and Paul King

The documentary short Hearts in Sorrow explores the religious ceremonies of 2015, surrounding the auspicious 10 th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, known as ASHURA. 

It steps away from the geopolitical arguments to gain a greater understanding of the Iranian people and the Shia sect of Islam.

Iran is considered to be the most stable and powerful nation with a Shia sect majority. Some within Iran consider their country’s greatest role to be the protector of the faith.

Hearts in Sorrow was filmed in the cities of Shiraz, Eqlid, Yazd, and Kashan, as well as the mountain village of Kahkaran. This film follows the extravagant theatrical performances and street processions in the larger cities as well as the intimate gatherings in the smaller villages. Through invoking sorrow, the rituals of Ashura emotionally bind today’s adherents to each other and to a most profound suffering that occurred more than 1300 years ago.

Men attending an Ashura event in Iran
Men attending one of the many Ashura rituals at Esphahan, Iran. The orchestrated intensity of expressions of grief are devoutly followed
A boy carrying a flag during Ashura parade in Yazd, Iran
A boy carrying a flag used in an Ashura parade in Yazd, Iran. His concentration reflects the intensity of his involvement in the classic Shia mourning of Hussein
Depiction of the slaying of Hussein during an Ashura parade in Iran
A parade float in Esphahan depicting the slaying of Hussein’s infant son during the battle Karbala in AD 680

The Artist Collective

Statement from Paul King :

Curiosity and passion propel my explorations. My research investigates alteration and sovereignty of the body through the lens of socio-cultural anthropology. Why and how do we alter our social bodies?

I have authored articles and lectured at colleges and conferences on topics including: modalities of communicating with the body; cross-cultural contrast and comparison of flesh hook-suspending communities; and explored cross-cultural grief practices of modifying the body and their effects on the psyche. 

In response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, I wrote, directed, and produced my first documentary, Rituals of Life: the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. 100% of proceeds went to non-profits. 

In 2014, I co-produced and directed, a documentary short, Ladies and Gentlemen: Phatima Rude! This gritty documentary followed San Francisco underground performance artist Phatima’s struggles and triumphs with illness, poverty, addiction, body alteration, and gender identity while living in their van. The documentary showed in 13 festivals and received 2 awards.

In 2014, I graduated UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Anthropology. I received highest honors for my thesis: Investigation of Female Genital Alteration Within US Non-immigrant Communities.

Currently I am co-directing and co-producing a series of documentaries on ceremonies and rituals that induce altered states of consciousness, from locations including Europe, East Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, and Iran.

Manifesto, by Jon John

I believe that the action of love remains one of the few accessible ecstatic rituals in our disposable society. 

My ritual forms are not static. My invocations of love are not static. The rituals and aesthetics of my childhood experiences continue to transform through research and personal connection. 

My ritual is communal alchemy. I don’t perform for audiences but rather engaged witnesses that become co-creators. My lovers. 

From my veins flow Basque, Argentinian and « Gypo ». Gypo is a derogatory term I own for Gitano, which is the Spanish- Roma ethnicity. 

The complexity of my ethnicities gave dimensionality to my religious upbringing. We are a catholic family that practices magic. My people gave me the gifts of healing bodies and conjuring spirits. 

My queerness is not in a typical narrative of exclusion, but rather a celebration of my otherness. 

It is not a longing of something missing, but a quest with an open heart. 

Through altered state of consciousness I transcend my spoken vocabulary, to share my hidden secrets of love, life and loss. 

I utilise video, photography, installation and most notably performance. 

Flesh, skin and blood are my palette to take you on a journey from tenderness to brutality via beauty and decay. 

In addition to my solo work I have collaborated with artists such as Ron Athey, Joey Arias, Marilyn Manson, Nick Knight, Paul King, Rancinan, Kiril Bikov, Juano Diaz, David Harrow and others.

I live between Berlin, and my homeland, Basque country

About Mike Marlowe :

I am a British photographer originally from London. 

My travels and work have taken me to more than 75 countries around the world shooting candid and documentary projects for press, advertising and commercial clients as well as developing a distinctive style for personal projects.

I work in a close and candid manner tending to integrate in countries or regions and even returning to places to develop ideas.

The subject matter is always what can be found during the journey either searching for a particular image to fit a requirement or by developing a theme and then allowing the images to present themselves.

The core of my work centres around people, culture and the relationship to environment and its continual state of change. I work in colour and develop projects that collate a narrative of a theme.

Although I don’t seek to stylise or create scenarios in which to shoot I’m interested in the subjectiveness of attempting to treat all subjects equally and the results that it creates.


Friday, 27th may 2016

6pm to 7.30pm, Film première and Artists talk

7.30pm to 10pm, Opening Night.

Saturday 28th May 2016

5pm : Lecture by Paul king,

in conversation with Jon John

Transcendence : 

An overview of varied practices from prehistoric to present of human’s pursuit of the super mundane through physical alteration of the body. This lecture explores ritual use of amputating, dental and cranial modifying, bloodletting, tattooing, piercing, cicatrizing, suspending and flagellating from around the world and throughout time.

Thursday 2nd of June 2016

5pm : Lecture by Paul King, 

in conversation with Jon John

The Grieving Body :

 Does Body Modification Injure or Heal the Psyche ? 

In mainstream Western culture, grief processes that include physical alteration of the body are often categorised as pathological and considered “self-harm.” However, throughout recorded history many ethnic groups have sanctioned either solo or communal acts of piercing, tattooing, cutting, burning, striking, amputating, or tooth ablating as part of their mourning rituals.This lecture entails a cross-cultural contrast and comparison of intentional physical responses to grief both within and outside culturally organised and permitted methods. We will explore the social implications, the possible harms and benefits, of sanctioning versus not sanctioning physically manifested grief practices.

7pm : closing of the exhibition.

Link to Somos Gallery

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