A contemporary art gallery in central Tehran is giving Iranians a chance to let out their frustrations by screaming into clay pots sculpted by a Vancouver-based artist, exhibiting in the country of his ancestors for the first time.
The earthen pots, some of which resemble traditional water jars, are designed not for containing liquids but to relieve the stresses of urban life - noise, traffic and pollution - if only for a moment.
"When logic fails to explain, it becomes natural to scream. The (pots) reflect many conditions that we are faced with, often unexplained with logic," artist Babak Golkar told Reuters by e-mail from Canada last week, shortly after his exhibition opened.
Gallery creator Sohrab Kashani said it has been packed with stylish Iranians screaming into vessels of various shapes and sizes. Some are designed to amplify sound, some to mute, but all made with the same clay that is typical of parts of Iran.
Golkar said he had decided the time was right to return to Tehran after years of avoiding exhibiting there.
"I was physically gone for a long time but mentally never left. To come back and engage actively and not as a passive tourist was a true privilege," he said.
He, like many contemporary artists who have departed from traditional mediums such as painting and sculpture, had difficulty finding a place to work with experimental and performance-based mediums until Sazmanab, a privately funded art centre founded by Kashani, stepped in.
Kashani, a self-taught artist and curator, set up the centre in 2009 to counter the "dearth of contemporary art studies" in Iranian universities.
Art Must Conform
The art centre is one of dozens of privately owned galleries to be set up in the last 10 years in Tehran, mostly in the northern, wealthier parts of the city of about 8 million.
Sazmanab, however, is downtown, close to Iran's universities and the former embassy of the United States.
"We want to reach people that aren't just in the art scene," Kashani said. More than 500 people, including students, artists, industrial workers and their families visited Sazmanab to see the Screaming Pots exhibition which runs until Friday.
Much of Iranian art conforms with Iran's political and religious narratives and it is commercially risky for artists to strike out on their own, even though some do.
"Iran's art scene, I felt, is at a crossroad where engaged and critical artists seem to be frustrated with its art market and are wanting to go beyond that," Golkar said.