03
Aug 14

The House Is Black

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This poster is the second in a series, a follow-up to my Orderly or Disorderly film poster. Forough Farrokhzad’s Khaneh Siah Ast (The House is Black) is a uniquely powerful short documentary film that was released in 1963. You can watch it with English subtitles here.

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The House is Black was filmed at a “leper colony” in Iran. Carefully crafted visuals are interspersed with recitations of religious texts and Farrokhzad’s own poetry (for which she is best known). The montage of these elements creatively conveys both the inherent dignity and challenging realities of the residents, while simultaneously calling attention to the debilitating effects of social stigma and ignorance.

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As I thought about how to represent this in poster form, I was drawn to using shadows, which are also a reoccurring theme in Farrokhzad’s poetry, as a way to represent our dialectical relationship with the social forces and relationships we are born into and have to contend with.

Hamid Dabashi’s analysis in Masters & Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema (2007) expanded my appreciation for the film by situating the film in the wider context of Farrokhzad’s work and life. He suggests that Farrokhzad was able to forge a sense of solidarity with the people she met in the leper colony based on her own experiences of sexist social marginalization. The film can be read as part of her resistance to being branded with a scarlet letter by her detractors — instead she continues to insist on posing deeper questions about society.

Dabashi offers several translations of Farrokhzad’s poems, including “The World of Shadows” from The Wall (1956). The last stanza of this poem is quoted on the poster:

On the wet path at midnight,

How often have I asked

Myself: “Does life even find form

Inside our shadows?

Are we not the shadows of our own shadows?” 

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31
Jan 14

Orderly or Disorderly

 

2014-I1-Minimal-lightI made this poster/print as a tribute to Abbas Kiarostami’s Be Tartib ya Bedoun-e Tartib (Orderly or Disorderly), a short film released in 1981.

You can watch it online here, though unfortunately it is lacking subtitles. I was able to find a torrent elsewhere with English subtitles.

I was charmed by the premise of filming the same scenario from an “orderly” and “disorderly” perspective and the resultant complications and breakdowns that ensued. The impossibility of exercising “order” in the final traffic scene helps to underline a sense of doubt and critical engagement with a top-down disciplinary vision of society.

It’s tempting to read the question of “Orderly or Disorderly” in relation to the post-revolutionary environment it was produced in, however in my opinion the film transcends this particular context by evoking broader questions of social control, collective resistance, self-organization and self-destruction that I continue to grapple with.

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