Art is (bleep) performance will be staged again on Sunday, July 21, 2:30-5 PM. Please join us.

The Book of Illuminations is an exploration in writing as process and performance, and language as ritual and visual. The project is rooted in the imperative to understand the nuances of my intellectual and emotional shaping through my first language, Farsi, while staying away from the pitfalls of auto-biography as a highly sensationalized genre in the context of diasporic Iranian (and Middle Eastern) writing.

In The Book of Illuminations I juxtaposed two distinct methodologies. Minimalist and elemental in the use of art media (pen and paper only), in one series – Life-Writing زندگی-نوشتن – I took up language as performance, paper as stage and calligraphy as an embodied practice to document my (inner) life at the time of writing. Adding layers on top of, in between and intersecting with layers of unpremeditated, uncensored and unedited life records, in these pages I aimed to transform life writing from a space for self-mythologizing on the one hand and voyeuristic amusement on the other to an expanse for meditative presence and reflective inquiry. In a second series – Un/Sacred نا\مقدس – I used acrylics on paper in highly formalized and conceptually driven interrogations of idiomatic Farsi as the dominant language in the Iranian culture. Focusing on its untranslatable humour and inherent visuality, the result was revealing, rebellious and, well, perhaps irreverent.

Having formally trained in calligraphy in my early days, I am interested in stretching the boundaries of this art form – which is usually viewed as sacred and/or decorative practice – to contain everyday experience and language. In this project, the calligrapher is a scribe whose writing – what she brings to the page and/or keeps out – reflects her experience of her culture free from the outsider’s gaze and the imperatives of tradition. What got bleeped out in the work in its first exhibition illuminated much about the limits and impositions within the contemporary society.

The project was previously presented as work-in-progress in an artist talk as part of “Re-Locate,” a Turkish-Bulgarian artistic exploration of border-crossing and diasporic cultural reformulations and hybridizations, hosted by Art Today Association in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in May 2011.


The Book of Illuminations was supported by the Ontario Arts Council. I am grateful to Babak Salari, for photo documentation of the book; to Haleh Niazmand for installation and exhibition consultation; to Naomi Binder Wall, Sarah Abu-Sharar and Roberta Buiani for participating in Art is (bleep) intervention; to Maryam Taghavi for documenting the intervention; to Chandra Sidan and Naomi Binder Wall for valuable feedback about the intervention; and to Sanaz Mazinani, the curator of The Third Space, for her hard work and vision in organizing the show and for the conversations that revealed so much about the contemporary limits and taboos in diasporic Iranian communities.