per l’Arte


Walter Niedermayr
Recollection Ira: Ancient Persia and Industrialization

Tosetti Value, thanks to the precious collaboration of Chiara Massimello, is pleased to present the exhibition, “Walter Niedermayr, Iran: Ancient Persia and industrialization”.

Persepolis is truly the cradle of something, not in the sense of birthplace that is often given to this word, but rather a place of interaction, of atoms, molecules and chemical reactions that, just as in our own biological life, move, collide and open.   As Walter Niedermayr’s photographs show us from the start, these collisions produce layers, these sub-strata create biodiversity and extraordinary cultural richness. It is from here that the story of contemporary Iran begins. However, this extraordinary humus has to be watered and then harvested, like fruit, by those able to accept and include both parts of the word: “bio”, life, a condition we are all naturally in favour of, and “diversity”, an attribute we are not always inclined to accept.
It is 29 November 1997 in Melbourne, and Iran’s footballing legend Ali Daei bypasses the Australian offside trap, then Khodadad Azizi sprints through to slot the ball into the net from just outside the area.  The result, a draw as improvised as it is unexpected, and by the 79th minute Iran is on its way to France and the 1998 World Cup. Qualifying for the World Cup, an historic event, was celebrated with Dionysian frenzy. The streets of Teheran and villages filled with crowds as the country became inflamed with passion. Alcohol and western pop music, vices to keep well-hidden at home, erupted into the open. Some women defied the law and went out into the street to dance, some even went as far as taking off their hijab. The situation frightened the Islamic government, which delayed the return of the national team players by redirecting them to Dubai in an effort to calm the uproar. Three days later, when the team made its triumphal entry by helicopter into the Azadi stadium (“freedom” in Farsi), five thousand women were crowded round the gates. The police let only three thousand in, escorting them into the Azadi to an area segregated from the male spectators, before those left outside breached the barriers and took their places on the stands. The day would be remembered as the “Football Revolution”.
The Iran Walter Niedermayr shows us is not only, as certain formal, dialectic solutions would seem to suggest, a two or three-sided conversation, or in any case one for a restricted number of voices, but in keeping with the opening words, a biologically diverse field, rich, fertile and multi-faceted. Persia and industrialization is the achievement of a modern economy – among the crops of this fecund field we can clearly and incisively see the correlation between Persia and the architectural modernity of the 20th century, of heavy industry that has been transformed into the service industry. These economies, often considered latecomers, experience a competitive and landscape advantage, one that erases their memory and cultural stratification, of skipping stages: they do not experience the factory, but go straight to the office.  The buildings that dot Darband and the Elbuz Mountains are the wheat ears of this plantation. The sour, mouth-puckering fruits are those grown in the sun of the cultural revolution, like the 1997 football revolution. Here the picture widens out of all proportion, because Iran has not yet found a way to blend its diversities, and if on one hand it is exposed to the brute force of modern emancipation, on the other it still represses many basic human rights, including, with the greatest persistency, sexual rights.  Thus one of the most effective rhetorical figures which evokes the fixity of “two” offered by Niedermayr in this exhibition is the diaphragm. It opens and closes, rises and falls, admits or excludes. It is the movement that Iran itself has experienced with its trade, first strangled and then freed, with extraordinary inertia however, by nuclear agreements with the United States and the West. This diaphragm now seems open, and as we who have an open diaphragm as immense as the entire Mediterranean, know, this allows great number of dust-sized, grain-sized or massive bodies to filter through. This will perhaps tell us whether that picture, so perfect yet static, will broaden to include all the diversity that already lives in the salt of Iran’s soil, crystal-like and under the surface.

November 2017 / March 2018