For some artists, ‘Focus Iran 3’ show delivers a loud message: ‘We are not alone’

For some artists, ‘Focus Iran 3’ show delivers a loud message: ‘We are not alone’
Milad Karamooz's photograph "The Kiss" (2016) won third place in the Farhang Foundation's "Focus Iran 3" biennial. (Milad Karamooz / Farhang Foundation)

Milad Karamooz’s photograph “The Kiss” depicts two half-naked men. One is seated with eyes closed, a lace harness across his chest and scissor blades across his lips; the other stands behind, a fitted black glove around the seated man’s throat.

The work won third place in the upcoming “Focus Iran 3,” a juried exhibition of 42 contemporary photographs and videos that constitute the third biennial of the Farhang Foundation. The nonprofit, which promotes Iranian arts and culture, chose a theme of Iranian youth culture this year, and the show opens at the newly named Craft Contemporary(formerly the Craft & Folk Art Museum) on Jan. 27. At a ceremony Jan. 25, the top three winners will be awarded cash prizes, although Karamooz won’t be there to accept in person. Discouraged by President Trump’s latest travel ban, the Tehran-based artist didn’t even try to obtain a visa.

It’s not the first challenge Karamooz has faced with this particular work. The photograph, which he said in his artist’s statement addresses growing up “as a minority in a society that is deeply influenced by religion, tradition, patriarchy and violence,” was supposed to be part of a group exhibition in 2016 at Mehrva Art Gallery in Tehran. But government authorities in Iran deemed the subject matter inappropriate and the photograph was eliminated from the show.

I’m getting confirmation that my work is not pointless or futile, and that in fact, I am in a way keeping the art of my country alive.



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