CURATEd BY Vali Mahlouji
Curated by Vali Mahlouji, A Utopian Stage will address the radical “Third World-ism” at play at the Festival of Art, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-77). This performance festival was of a piece with the Non-Aligned movement, and facilitated a uniquely transformative crucible of artistic exchange and experience across the North-South and Cold War divides. It aimed to oxygenate local traditions through stimulating exposure and confrontation, especially by situating Iran in relation to Asia. (After Iranian performers, artists from South Asia came second in the sheer number of performances.)
The festival juxtaposed Asian and African artists with Western avant-gardists, underscoring the reverse transmission of knowledge from the so-called periphery to the centre. Through these modalities, it highlighted the depth and continuity of Asian philosophical influence on European and American modernist movements. At DAS 2018, A Utopian Stage will expose the retrieved archives (banned in Iran following a religious decree since 1979) for the first time in Asia. The historical materials will be punctuated by live performances and musical interventions, which respond to the transcendental spirit of this exchange between Asia and the West. The Bengali thinker, philosopher and songwriter Lalon Fakir’s deep interest in the essence of music and song and their connections to the human spirit and experience anchor the project in Bangladesh, and will provide the basis for investigations and experiments by local artists and thinkers.