• TAR BOOK
BY MARGUERITE HUMEAU
'"TAR is a tremendous flight of fantasy for those who need to plan a way to escape from this planet or to save it."
Week 2014, June 30- July 6
BITRATES & GIFBITES
Landing in Shiraz, Iran
by Alison Bennet
The screen above is showing a random carousel of artworks. The full sequence can be viewed online at http://bitrates.gifbites.com/
The term 'Bitrate' refers to the rate at which bits, units of digital data, are processed over time. It is also the name of an exhibition held recently in the Iranian city of Shiraz, curated by Morehshin Allahyari and Mani Nilchiani, two Iranian artists currently based in the U.S.A.
They proposed that Bitrate is more than simply a technical term. It is also a condition that imposes cultural consequences when slow and unreliable internet access creates a slow trickles of contact with global digital culture.
Bitrates was the first exhibition at Dar-ol-Hokoomeh and the first new media art exhibition in Shiraz , ever. HOSTED BY Artist House a new gallery providing a platform for new media practice.
It included artworks by Morehshin Allahyari, Benjamin Bacon, Andrew Blanton, Alex Myers, Brenna Murphy, Ramsey Nasser, Mani Nilchiani, Daniel Rourke, Alfredo Salzar-Caro, & Angela Washko.
Alison Bennett spoke to one of the exhibition curators, Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke, who curated a large selection of GIF works paired with sound loops. Originally conceived as part of Bitrates, an extended version of GIFbites was subsequently exhibited at Dar-ol-Hokoomeh and as an online exhibition.
AB Can you tell us briefly what instigated this project and how you went about curating the Bitrates exhibition?
Morehshin Allahyari My friend Mani Nilchiani asked me if I was interested in working with him to co-curate a new media art exhibition in Shiraz for a newly established art gallery called Daralhokoomeh Project (co-founded by Mohsen Hazrati and Milad Forouzandeh). This was a little bit complex, because it was going to be the very first new media art exhibition. So we had to decide what would be the best theme for the show when there is not necessarily much context around the historical and contemporary practices of new media art. We thought the best choice would be to bring together something that could capture a selection of works of artists who use a "variety of digital tools, material, and software in their works to present a specific category and technological aesthetics of new media art; To me, what remains absolutely refreshing about working on this process with Mani, Mohsen, and Daniel specifically for the GIFbites exhibition, was that everyone put their focus on curating and organizing a new media art exhibition, and not a political or stereotypically cultural show just because it’s happening in Iran.
AB So you landed on the concept of Bitrate?
Morehshin Allahyari Yes! The concept of "bit rate" was where we thought we could draw a line among all these works, every digital art work at one point or the other needs to navigate the bottleneck of 'bits'. Plus, our very own experience of having access to the internet when growing up in Iran; passing through filters, the slowness, and dysfunctional dial up internet to have access to "the other side of the world".
AB In an article for Media N last year, some of the artists you interviewed stated that digital/new media art "has no foothold in Iran". I know that the Tehran Annual Digital Art Exhibition (TADAEX) didn’t start till 2011. New Media really is new in Iran?
Morehshin Allahyari If we omit video art, which has been around and practiced by a lot of artists in the last decades in Iran, we could say that new media is new in Iran. There are no Art + Technology programs at universities in Iran, so the galleries and independent curators have become the main advocates of new media.
AB Meditating on one of the paradoxes of new media art, I am intrigued by the way that new media art practices can be simultaneously deeply connected to a sense of place and at the same time omnipresent, appearing simultaneously on screens around the world. In my experience, our responses to and interpretation of artworks are profoundly contextual/situated; the dialogue with an audience has a significant bearing on the experience and performance of the work. What can you tell us about how the work was received by the audience in Shiraz?
Morehshin Allahyari I actually think new media art and its technological aesthetics is still very "western" in a way. One thing that I find super interesting though is the adoption and localization of technology in that sense and the future to come as new media art grows and evolves in a country like Iran. After the two exhibitions (Bitrates + GIFbites), Mohsen Hazrati told me that when Milad and he started Daralhokoomeh Project, they knew that it was not going to be easy to promote new media art as one of the categories of contemporary practices… The audience response as Mohsen described was a mix of either those who supported and were excited by the exhibitions or those who didn't seem to accept the works as a "form of art".
AB Daniel Rourke curated a selection of GIF works paired with sound loops for Bitrates. A larger version of this project was subsequently exhibited at Dar-ol-Hokoomeh, as well as an online exhibition. Daniel, how did this aspect of Bitrates evolve?
DANIEL ROURKE GIFbites is a project I have played with for a while where animated GIFs are paired with 15 second pieces of audio. The aim has always been to highlight the breadth of 'things GIFs can do', but it has also become a wonderful way to showcase the work of artists to a click->scroll->reload online audience. Morehshin asked if I could resurrect it for Bitrates and I jumped at the chance to translate it to a gallery context. We never intended it to expand to the size it eventually did (50+ artists), but the excitement behind the Bitrates exhibition and the enthusiasm from the online art community helped it grow organically. It's been an honour to collaborate with so many leading, established and upcoming artists. Mohsen Hazrati channelled the enthusiasm for the works in the gallery through to us, and the response online has also been fantastic. There's plenty of life in the old GIF yet. GIFbites has ended up being a really diverse showcase of work from artists from all over the world. We are working at the moment to add more GIFbites from Iranian artists into the line-up. New media art is happening in Iran, even if the universities and galleries don't represent it.
TAR is the sticky stuff we pave our roads and build our roofs with.
It affords us travel and shelters us from the storm. It is also an anagram of the word art.
The editorial staff have taken every care to obtain from copyright holders the authorization to publish the pictures in this issue. In any cases where this has not been possible, the editorial staff would like to make it known that they are available to eligible parties to settle any amounts that are owed.
Tar Editori S.r.l / Corso Verceli 23, 20144 MILANO - ITALY -
TAR magazine digital edition wishes to thanks