Abbas Kowsari: Reds and Greens

Saturday October 31, 2015 – Wednesday November 25, 2015

The exhibition of recent works by 2009 Prix Pictet nominee Abbas Kowsari titled Reds and Greens is a photo and video installation depicting temporary non-actors as they prepare and wait to perform in ta’ziyehs, one of the most devoted rituals of mourning during the holy month of Muharram. In Shia Islam, there always exists a conflict between the oppressed and the oppressors and this has led to the formation of a culture of martyrdom. In Iran, these concepts have been intertwined with more ancient stories predating Islam such as the tragic death of Siavosh in the epic Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. During Muharram, ta’ziyehs – theatrical passion plays employing presentational acting techniques – reenact the bloody death of Imam Hussein and his family at the hands of Yazid and his army. Inducing a deep state of catharsis, these plays are performed each year in the streets and neighborhoods in cities across Iran. The performers are non-actors performing for crowds in their own neighborhoods. They have regular jobs, which they perform throughout the year and are from various classes in society. Therefore their presence dressed as characters in the ta’ziyehs, creates a satirical collage in which no one really notices them and are oblivious to their presence. Imam Hussein and his clan are represented by the holy color green and Yazid and his soldiers are represented by the color red. It is interesting to note that these descendants of the Prophet were themselves murdered by oppressors who claimed to be doing so in the name of Islam, much like the civilians being murdered by terrorist groups in present day Middle East.

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