An exhibition on the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967–1977) in the framework of MaerzMusik – Festival für Zeitfragen
CURATED BY Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade

AT SAVVY Contemporary | Berlin

A Utopian Stage reconstructs a complex space of international modernity by highlighting the ‘third worldist’ sensibilities of the immediate post-colonial period and tracing a cultural atlas through which knowledge was exchanged across alternative (often non-European) plateaus. This process takes us through a reconstruction of the gaze – subverting the single ‘reading’ of West to East into a more cyclical model, engaging in cultural negotiations from East to East, East to West, South to East, South to South – constructing a panoramic exchange of global artistic discourse.

As a multi-partite project, it takes the Festival of Arts, Shiraz Persepolis as its point of departure to revisit the radical aspirations of the networks of artists, thinkers, cultural practitioners and experimentalists that defined the 1960s and 1970s. The Festival of Arts was a radical artistic and cultural festival of performing arts, held annually in Shiraz and the ancient ruins of Persepolis every summer between 1967-1977. By the early 1970s, the Festival of Arts had become the principal, transgressive platform for transnational experimental exchanges of creativity and knowledge. These exchanges intercepted historical, political and ideological demarcations, to which a new wave of Iranian artists were actively linked. It was successful in its artistic and diplomatic undertaking to bring together artists from across the North-South divide and from both sides of the Cold War political standoffs. Interrupted by the 1978-79 revolution and declared decadent in a decree by Ayatollah Khomeini, all materials associated with the festival have been removed from access and officially remained banned in Iran.
Considering the decade long controversial festival as an historical object, the project retraces its unique landscape and utopian stage. Archaeology of the Final Decade (AOTFD) has unearthed archival materials, audio recordings and film footage retracing its unique utopian landscape and the revolutionary spirit of international transcendental aspirations. Founded by Vali Mahlouji in 2010 AOTFD is a non-profit curatorial and educational platform which researches histories of nations condemned by social displacement, cultural annihilation or deliberate disappearance. AOTFD engages with accounts of culture which have been lost through material destruction, acts of censorship, political, economic or human contingencies. AOTFD brings international attention to artists whose work has been neglected due to historical circumstances and assists cultural institutions in identifying and acquiring these works for their permanent public collections. AOTFD operates through exhibitions, events, talks, symposia and publications.

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
CURATOR Vali Mahlouji
MANAGEMENT Lema Sikod & Lynhan Balatbat
COMMUNICATION Anna Jäger & Marleen Boschen
VISUALS Elsa Westreicher & Lili Somogyi
TECH Bert Günther
ART HANDLING Wilson Mungai, Kimani Joseph

FILM Bona Bell