Dhaka Art Summit

A Utopian Stage


CURATEd BY Vali Mahlouji


Curated by Vali Mahlouji, A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis documents and examines the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis, an arts and performance festival held in Iran every summer between 1967-77, in and around the city of Shiraz and the ancient ruins of Persepolis. Taking place during a time of radical shifts in global narratives and power dynamics – at the height of the Cold War, and in the wake of rapid decolonisation – Shiraz-Persepolis facilitated a unique and transformative crucible of artistic possibility: simultaneously apart from, and in response to, its time. The festival summoned a progressive dialogue of artistic perspectives, and remains one of the major unresolved artistic complexes of late modernism.

Shiraz-Persepolis introduced artists and expressions from the Global South into international cultural discourse on an unprecedented scale, radically dismantling the dominant hierarchies. After Iran, the most highly represented region was South Asia, re-invigorating strong but dormant cultural ties with countries like India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan which has been severed through colonial rule. In the immediate aftermath of decolonisation, Shiraz-Persepolis would shift the cultural centre of gravity towards the re-emerging ‘other’ – consciously attempting to bypass the hierarchies and conventions of the European cultural terrain. Through unearthed film, audio and archival materials, A Utopian Stage interrogates the emancipatory and universalising spirit of this decade-long episode in the twentieth century’s artistic narrative, while appraising its limitations amid a context of tectonic change.

As a part of A Utopian Stage at Dhaka Art Summit 2018, ‘below the levels where differences appear’, a transnationally roving amphitheatre conceived by Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD) will also commissions artists, performers and filmmakers to make works that draw upon the music, theatre, dance and politics that informed the utopian aspirations and contradictions of the original festival. Invited artists for DAS 2018 include Hassan Khan, Goshka Macuga, Silas Riener (Merce Cunningham Trust), Reetu Sattar, Yasmin Jahan Nupur with Santal performers, and Bengali musicians.


Goshka Macuga

Hassan Khan

Yasmin Jahan Nupur

Reetu Sattar

Silas Reiner (Merce Cunningham Trust)


About Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD)

A Utopian Stage is a project of Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD), a curatorial platform founded by Vali Mahlouji in 2010. AOTFD seeks to challenge and confront fixed histories through a radical re-contextualisation of cultural and artistic materials that have remained obscure, endangered, banned or in some instances destroyed.  The platform’s work brings international attention to cultural artefacts which have been neglected due to historical circumstances, and encourages the reintegration of these materials into cultural memory. AOTFD’s materials have so far been acquired by Tate Modern, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Smithsonian Institute and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).