Khal – about


Helga Fassonaki began the Khal project in 2014 while living in Tabriz, Iran for a month. As a visual artist in Iran, what she was able to share in public was restricted. Furthermore, as a female performing artist, the use of her voice in public performance was restricted.

After the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini “condemned all forms of music, other than classical and traditional Persian music” as being corrupted and influenced by Western culture, and therefore, forbidden. During this time, Khomeini also forbade women from singing solo in public because of “the seductive quality of the female voice.”

Since performing as she chose was illegal in Iran, Fassonaki sent compositions in the form of sculptural scores created in Tabriz to sixteen female artists and musicians living in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and New Zealand. The concept being that the scores be interpreted and performed publicly by these artists in lieu of Fassonaki’s ability to do so.

These “living scores” continue to be interpreted and performed by participants, creating an open book of ongoing socio-spatial exchange. Iterations of Khal were exhibited at Glasshouse (Brooklyn, NY), Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA), Disjecta (Portland, OR), the Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery (Christchurch, NZ), the 2015 Audacious Festival of Sonic Arts (Christchurch, NZ), Audio Foundation (Auckland, NZ), Viewfinder (Auckland, NZ), and Nga Taonga Sound & Vision (Auckland, NZ). As the series unfolds from one event to another, a cumulative composition of voices and actions will continue to grow until the law inhibiting artistic expression ceases to exist. This ongoing exchange and peaceful protest refers to the derogatory use of the Farsi word “khal,” coined to describe the passage of Iranian pop music in the form of homemade mixtapes. Once pop music was no longer being produced or sold in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, the Los Angeles Persian community sent mixtapes to residents in Iran so they could listen to their own country’s pop stars. Fassonaki remembers partaking in this movement when she was a kid residing in Los Angeles.  The steady flow of cassettes soon became state-approved in Iran, an example that gentle poetic actions can push through governing law.

The original recipients of Fassonaki’s scores include Matana Roberts (New York, NY), Kelly Jayne Jones (Manchester, UK), Kali. Z. Fasteau (New York, NY), Gabie Strong (Los Angeles, CA), Christina Carter (Austin, Texas), Chiara Giovando (Los Angeles, CA), Heather Leigh (Glasgow, Scotland), Rachel Shearer (Auckland, NZ), Jenny Gräf (Copenhagen, Denmark), Purple Pilgrims (Coromandel, New Zealand), Angel Chirnside (Auckland, NZ), Marcia Bassett as Zaïmph (Brooklyn, NY), Ashley Paul (London, UK), Kathleen Kim (Los Angeles, CA), Rachael Melanson as Ro Sen (London, UK), and Shana Palmer (Baltimore, MD).

Additional participating artists include Maryam Bagheri Nesami (Tehran, Iran / Auckland, New Zealand), Gemma Syme as Instant Fantasy (Christchurch, New Zealand), Fariba Safai (San Francisco, CA), Sarah Kelleher as Misfit Mod (Christchurch, New Zealand), Beth Ducklingmonster (Auckland, New Zealand), Tina Pihema as Piece War (Auckland, NZ), Yasi Alipour (New York, NY), Nazanin Daneshvar (New York, NY), Julia Santoli (New York, NY), Suki Dewey (Califon, NJ), Laura Sofia (New York, NY), Ella Chau Yin Chi as French Concession (Christchurch, New Zealand), Elizabeth Mary Maw (Auckland, New Zealand), Mira Billotte as White Magic (Los Angeles, CA), Hermione Johnson (Auckland, New Zealand), Zahra Killeen Chance (Auckland, NZ), Jo Burzynska as Stanier Black-Five (Christchurch, New Zealand), Helen Greenfield as Mela (Christchurch, New Zealand), Joan Sullivan (Baltimore, MD), twelve anonymous artists (Tabriz, Iran), Jessika Kenney (Los Angeles, CA), Pauline Lay and Ang Frances Wilson (Los Angeles, CA), and more as the series continues.


March 19 – 20, 2020 (postponed till further notice) – 2 Day Khal Publication Launch / Exhibition at Human Resources with performances by Swing State (Angel Chirnside and Helga Fassonaki), Jessika Kenney, White Magic (Mira Billotte) with Kathleen Kim, and Pauline Lay and Ang Frances Wilson.

November 18 – December 31, 2015 – Nga Taonga Sound & Vision in Auckland, New Zealand
About Exhibition & Documentation 

November 14, 2015 – Artist Talk at Audio Foundation Gallery

November 5 –  28, 2015Audio Foundation Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand
About Exhibition & Documentation 

October 25, 2015 – Artist Talk, Audacious Festival

October 23 – 27, 2015 – Audacious Festival, Christchurch, NZ – A public installation of the Score ‘Celestial’
About Festival & Documentation 

October 8 – 30, 2015  – The Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery in Christchurch, New Zealand
live performances by local artists on October 9:  Stainer Black-Five (Jo Burzynska), Mela (Helen Greenfield), Misfit Mod (Sarah Kelleher), French Concession (Ella), and Instant Fantasy (Gemma Syme)
About Exhibition & Documentation

September 26, 2015 (opening) – Disjecta (Book of Scores curated by Chiara Giovando) in Portland, Oregon
About Exhibition & Documentation 

March 20 – April 9, 2015LACA (Los Angeles Contemporary Archives)
live performances by Gabie Strong (LA), Kathleen Kim (LA), and Shana Palmer (MD)
About Exhibition & Documentation 

March 11, 2015Glasshouse in Brooklyn, New York
live performances by Kali Z. Fastaeu (NYC), Kathleen Kim (LA), and Marcia Bassett (NYC)
About Exhibition & Documentation