"SIAH ARMAJANI: EVERYDAY MAGIC IN IRANIAN MODERN ART"
Clare Davies, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Part of the Silsila fall 2018 Lecture Series, Matters of Mediation/Bodies of Devotion
"On the way to south Tehran you passed by the main post office. Two or three 'scribes' would be seen sitting on the steps where people could hire them to write a personal letter to family, break a spell or write a special prayer for curing sickness. The scribes would also write letters of protection from Satan for travelers."--Siah Armajani, 2011
Siah Armajani's earliest works are collages of fabric and paper made while the artist was still a university student and political activist in 1950s Tehran. Drawing on the material culture of southern Tehran's historical bazaar, these works incorporated spells, prayers and talismans purchased from the post-office scribe alongside lines of poetry, political protest, and folk songs snatched from the radio, figures copied from the pages of Persian miniatures, information transcribed from family birth certificates and the wax seals of personal signet rings. This paper considers the relationship of religious and magical practices in Armajani's work to the broader political and social context of southern Tehran, as well as their enduring significance for Iranian artists in the 1960s and 70s.