In September 2014 Helga Fassonaki resided in an artist studio in Tabriz, Iran for a month. As a visual and performing artist, 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.
Due to 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 influenced by western culture, and therefore corruptive and forbidden. 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 during her residency 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), LACA (Los Angeles, CA), Disjecta (Portland, OR), The Auricle Sonic Arts Gallery (Christchurch, NZ), Audacious 2015 (Christchurch, NZ), Audio Foundation Gallery (Auckland, NZ), Viewfinder 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 artist 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 mixed tapes from the Los Angeles Persian community to Iranian residents (post Islamic Revolution) so that they could listen to their own country’s pop stars. Finally the steady flow of cassettes became state-approved in Iran, an example that gentle poetic actions like these can push through governing law.
The original recipients of Fassonaki’s scores include Kali Z Fasteau (NYC, NY), Kelly Jayne Jones (London, UK), Heather Leigh (Glasgow, Scotland), Jenny Gräf (Copenhagen, Denmark), Zaïmph (Brooklyn, NY), Chiara Giovando (Los Angeles, CA), Shana Palmer (Baltimore, MD), Purple Pilgrims (North Island, NZ), Rachael Melanson (London, UK), Christina Carter (Austin, Texas), Gabie Strong (Los Angeles, CA), Ashley Paul (London, UK), Angeline Chirnside (Auckland, NZ), Matana Roberts (NYC, NY), Rachel Shearer with Beth Ducklingmonster (Auckland, NZ), and Kathleen Kim (Los Angeles, CA).
Additional participating artists thus far include Suki Dewey (Califon, NJ), Fariba Safai (San Francisco, CA), Nazanin Daneshvar (NYC, NY), Yasi Alipour (NYC, NY), Laura Sofia (NYC, NY), Julia Santoli (NYC, NY), Stainer Black-Five (Christchurch, NZ), Mela (Christchurch, NZ), Misfit Mod (Christchurch, NZ), French Concession (Christchurch, NZ), Instant Fantasy (Christchurch, NZ), Hermione Johnson & Zahra Killeen Chance (Auckland, NZ), Liz Maw (Auckland, NZ), and Piece War (Auckland, NZ), Maryam Baghe Irani (Tehran, Iran via Auckland, NZ), and more TBA
EXHIBITION & EVENT DATES:
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) – 7pm
About Exhibition & Documentation
October 23 – 27, 2015 – Audacious Festival, Christchurch, NZ – A public installation of the Score ‘Celestial’
About Festival & Documentation
October 25, 2015 – Artist Talk, Audacious Festival
November 14, 2015 – Artist Talk at Audio Foundation Gallery