This was written on September 15, 2015 (revised January 7, 2020) as an attempt and conscious effort to clarify my intentions on Khal – a project I began in September 2014 while residing in Tabriz, Iran. I wanted to make clear that as an American of Persian and Azeri decent, my experience as a woman with freedom in America versus freedom as a woman in Iran (both post 1978) may appear different on the surface but both can be used to reveal something not talked about in the realm of the other.
To Clarify My Intentions:
What Khal has come to present is an action that connects one side of freedom to another. I would not be allowed to perform the way I would like in Iran because of the existing laws and it’s not my position as a visitor to challenge those laws in a way that would risk my freedom as an artist. So instead, I chose this gesture of sending scores out for artists outside Iran to perform publicly. This action attempted to demonstrate a way of still creating and communicating language rather than letting the suppression of ridiculous laws stop the conversation. Artists in Iran do not let such laws prevent them from making art; they are resourceful. With Khal, I attempted to move beyond a direct critique of the laws that shaped its initial concept and in a way question our own supposed freedoms – the personal and political freedoms as an American. In America, we are allowed to perform publicly without asking a ‘ministry of art and culture’ for permission and without presenting our art to a censorship board for a stamp of approval, but still do we have the freedom we are made to believe we have? Sure, we can go out and perform these scores publicly – but what are our own hang-ups? Do we push the limits? Do we express what’s meaningful, or do we hide behind the shadows of what we think we should believe? We are allowed to sing solo in public, to use our voice for positive change, but do we? We are free to create the kind of society we want to see, but is this it? We are free to express our individualism, but doesn’t that just nurture our own ego? We know we have the freedom to shout our opinions, but what about cultural meditation? Mind freedom. Do we have that? It’s easier to show paternal concern for the rest of the world’s freedom rather than take a harder look at our own, is it not?
These questions led me to try and create a composition for ‘8 Pillars’, one of the 16 scores shipped abroad. I wanted to create a composition in the making (in the form of a filmed experience) because only in the creating process, can we begin to see and work through our own mental prisons. This film, 8 Pillars – A Free Score, was screened at Disjecta in Portland, Oregon for the exhibition, ‘Book of Scores,’ curated by Chiara Giovando in September 2015.
Its important for me to acknowledge that the Khal project is not about saying that we as westerners have any right or responsibility to try and change the laws or culture of Iran. I think artists in Iran have profoundly effective ways of dealing with their own government. ‘Underground’ has a very different meaning in that country. It means an outlet for expression that may be otherwise banned; it sprouts from necessity rather than desire. It’s not outsider art, its insider freedom and its powerful and beautiful and does not require external interference. It does not seek to be in the spot light, it seeks to BE, it seeks to transmit vibrations, it seeks to finds it own way of transversing and transmitting.
I believe in the power of voice and artistic expression to move us beyond unjust laws and paint a freedom that resonates internally, externally, and globally. That is how this project came to be called ‘Khal‘.
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