ARTIST: MOHAMMAD KALANTARI
Tehran – O! Nassaji: The Hope of an Exhausted City, feels like a requiem which lingers in the visitor’s memory long after leaving the gallery. Mohammad Kalantari’s exhibition at Parallel Circuit, explores themes of loss, decay and renewal through the shared collective memory of a community which yearns for its better-seen days of the past.
Through closer inspection of printed material and labels we find out that this multimedia installation is an investigation into a community’s loss of its livelihood – Nassaji Mazandaran Textile Industries Company – of which only the memories and factory ruins remain for the townspeople. What is left of a once burgeoning textile industry in Qaem-Shahr, a city on the southern border of the Caspian Sea in Iran, is a small factory that now only produces burial shroud and thread.
The aspects of decaying communal memory are threaded throughout the works through recreated archival material. Displayed on the main gallery walls, hand -printed on burial shroud are six large-scale pictures of the rubble and ruins where factory sites used to be. The large broken torso of “The Mother Weaver” lies on the gallery floor next to her standing legs, a duplicate of the statue that used to stand outside the factory grounds. The rear gallery wall is covered with what, from afar, look like small blank sheets of paper (330 sheets) pinned to the wall. Upon closer inspection the paper is revealed to actually be shroud cloth, heavily coated in white paint, with a barely visible archival photograph of a factory worker in its upper left corner.
Not all hope is lost as Kalantari reflects on how the football team (Nassaji Qaem-Shahr) has replaced the textile industry as a beacon of hope for the townspeople. A split-screen video displays vintage blurred footage of workers entering factory gates, 70 years ago, juxtaposed with a present-day video of football fans entering the town stadium. An audio element of a loud factory whistle, fans chanting how Nassaji is their lifeline, ending with a referee whistle sound enhances the intended transference of this wistful hopefulness.
Kalantari has managed to create a space where the visitor’s individual sense of memory is triggered through each medium reconstructed from fragments of the community’s own fading collective memories. Both a requiem and a tribute to a community, O! Nassaji: Hope of an Exhausted City evokes the importance of laying claim to the past and performing acts of social remembrance which inspires hope, looking forward.