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What do we need to know about the MENA region today?

Jinoos Taghizadeh
1 June 2011

The Middle East is not a safe place

The Middle East is not a safe place. It is either the source of news, or the witness of strange incidents. Its streets and cities are under the threat of suicidal terrorists and of tribal religious wars. The Middle East is unpredictable: its aging dictators fall overnight, its borders have turned into trade and smuggling hot spots – and its art scene is not a safe place either.

In the Middle East – at least in the part where I live, Iran – everything can change suddenly. This is why definitions keep changing every decade ...

This place is not safe because artists are not free to express their thoughts and yet there are no beliefs, taboos or traditions that they wouldn't deal with.

Newcomers to the art scenes have their hands everywhere. In the land of age-old legends and strict religious beliefs, they tackle anything and everything that tries to inhibit change. At the risk of being labelled raw and unvarnished, Middle Eastern artists do not rely on experience. They are tired of being measured by a world community looking for signs of traditional art and seeking One Thousand and One Nights-type exoticism in their gruelling lives.

Middle Eastern artists do not need heroes. They are tired of sacred portraits and they actively tear them down. They despise halos of sacredness be it based on religious, historical or political ideologies – even if they are based on traditional or modern artistic concepts. Middle Eastern artists are their own heroes. They are heroes who constantly depose heroes, starting with themselves. This is why their faces are continually changing with every passing decade, or every five years or even every year. This is why it's not easy to pass judgment on them, whether one is merely expressing opinions or analysing them as the art market does. To achieve this feat, one must take their pulses daily and read the papers every day.

In the Middle East everyone, including artists, is tired of overnight revolutions and longing for lasting security.

These artworks were shown in the exhibition My Super Hero curated by Nazila Noebashari and presented at the Aaran Gallery, Tehran and the Morono Kiang Gallery, Los Angeles in March-April 2011.

Jinoos Taghizadeh

is an artist based in Tehran.

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