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SLMA

Speculative Literature + Multidisciplinary Art

Language and art, intertwined with poetry, words, and stories, form the society of our platform. This platform seeks to collect stories that are often circulating in dialect or are newly formed but are often not written.  We try to offer a second language for these texts. This platform seeks a dialogue between the language of imagery and storytelling. Often what happens on this platform is a reflection of the narrative’s in collaboration with the visual arts.

Mission 

Our Mission is to create a woven net of stories that can bend over time and grow with speculation. We create this net so its tension can hold our words, our future and our ideas.

Visión

Our vision is blurry. We’re blinded by light and our hairs in our faces. Our desire is to hold this conversation over time, over continents, over the internet and over the politics of our countries, the landscape of our dreams. 

Manipulated Sceneries/ Limited Access 8

A dialogue between Juliana and Nebras

Hello My Dear Juliana

I hope you are doing well, I’m doing okay, everything is fine here, sometimes is too fine that I ask myself, maybe there is something going on that I have no clue about? There were only a few are threaten by him, who might hardly lesson to him. Anyway, everything is glomming, rising and, fantastic here, we are still going to Friday’s galleries openings, couple weeks ago it was Tehran Art Fair it could be a cultural shock to whom might visit Iran it’s hard to believe this is Tehran. The style of people, the looks maybe the most, could remind you this is still Tehran. Tell me how you are doing? How’s life?  How do you deal with the daily routine? Did you go to any art residency recently? Did you make any new work? How’s the economy there I heard from my mother everything in Los Angeles gone up the price of renting a place in Los Angeles it’s unbelievable. Did you find a decent job after school? As you might also know Iran’s economy is slowed down because of the sanctions as one taxi driver describe his life economy “our income is like the small blanket if we cover our head our legs will be freezing and if  we put it on our feets our head will be freezing” I feel you can use this example for almost any conditions in Iran, not only economy but also for describing art and artist in general in Iran.  Of course among this current shaky economy, there are many people who still could live their luxury life and even make more money. A couple of weeks ago we visit this group exhibition you might not believe this near the artworks it was this tag that they wrote first with big font the price of the piece and then the name of the artist with smaller fonts and then the title of the work that was more like, “don’t be scared of the prices is not that high please buy and support before we loss our business” actually I might like these honest statements more, it could be more interesting. Anyway I want to tell you beside with these crazy stories that is going on here, one of my friend he is organizing this film, video, performance, and sound festival, I might not have any work to present myself but so far I ask Harry Gamboa, Tasha, Elena, Artur, Malte, Sichong, Heather and Jonathan to  present their works in a screening and to have it shown as a part of Limited Access Festival,  they already sent their files. Let me know if you made any new work after Calarts time, I would be so happy to see it, I would like to share these videos that I received from the artist I’ve invited with you, I always enjoy your opinions and writings. Let me know what do you think? 

Looking forward to hear from you

Love,

Nebras    

      

Dearest Nebras, 

I’m so happy to hear from you!

I want to tell you about so much, and I want to understand so much about you as well! 

You have many questions and I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer all of them, but I want to share with you these thoughts, they might provide some answers.

During my years in CalArts I had only one thing on my mind – to produce something every day. If not a complete product, at least to work on something, a project, a research, to write something everyday. Before my years in CalArts I had never been a ‘producer’, I was never one of those people that have one idea right after the other one, and wondering from one subject to next, ‘solving’ their curiosities as they go. 

You can imagine then my frustration at having to produce, or work on producing something every day. I could not even comprehend how it was humanly possible – to have so many curiosities, or so many questions, or so many statements! The result of this new way of life was trying to investigate what made me so ‘slow’ in thinking about an idea and in producing work. I became very involved in trying to research any idea that crossed my mind! I figured: If I will talk about something it’s inexcusable not to now all there is about it, how can I possibly talk about anything that I don’t know?

You were next to me during the entire process so there’s no need to remind you how my head was during those months…. The result, fortunately, was a very nonsensical video and some writing that to be honest, was a very truthful representation of my reality, and not of my un-reality.

The other result was the understanding that I definitely did not want to dedicate myself 100% and solely to produce work from my insides. And try to make money out of it. And be known for my production. 

The first thing I did was to stop thinking about art as a profession. I quickly encountered Luis Camnitzer, an artists and educator and revolutionary (in my regards) who writes a lot about art and the way he describes art is “a way of understanding the world”. Not so mean a profession, but rather, a way of learning how to do your profession. 

In this sense I realized that what I was able to create as an ‘artist’ was also the quality that makes me valuable at any job I take, and that is – to create meaning out of very little information, or, to deconstruct meaning where the information is too explicit. So it’s not a one way street, the way my mind works is that it challenges reality and uses criticality to try and see what’s behind the apparent truth. 

In my work I had a very intuitive boss, she was gifted in many ways, but at the same time, she had zero communication skills. My job became to learn how to navigate the labyrinth of her mind and translate that into actual and measurable results. 

You could say that I have a talent for making sense out of the unintelligible but at the same time, using nonsense to provide another light to ‘reality’.

When I came to terms with this tool that I have I was able to also understand why it was so hard for me to consider myself as an artist and why I felt that I could not connect to the art world as I knew it in the US.  Simply put, art for me is a tool to do my work, to understand life. Art as I knew it before was an end result showcasing a meta-analysis on itself. 

This was truly a long way for me to explain why I haven’t had any shows, been to any artist residency, or produced more work. 

But! And this is a lovely but! Even though I find it hard to consider myself as an artist, I have been able to imaginate some little pieces that I can bring to life for my own enjoyment and for those around me. One of them is writing. The last thing I wrote was poem dedicated to the mornings in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The other little project I can discuss further later on, but for now I will leave you with this image that is part of the imaginary of the next nonsensical creation:

Dear Juliana, 

Thanks for your kind reply,

Regarding what you wrote in the email, I was wondering whether too much curiosity in the artistic approach could reduce art to the extent of being another daily routine. Some time ago, an art gallery was representing a work by an artist from the Netherlands that she couldn’t make it to the opening in Tehran. She was skyping the performance that was supposed to be seen at the gallery space. A video was playing in the yard which was paused almost every two minutes to let the artist perform or explain what we had just seen with detailed explanations. To me, it was interesting and boring simultaneously, yet I appreciate her belief in what she was performing.

I doubt whether this is a common approach which only satisfies the artists or it stems from the need to meet our curiosity through new forms and content. Or perhaps, it happens because the role of residencies is finding an important status in an ideal artistic resume. That means, if you want to establish your place as an artist, now you are expected to attend various art residencies where you will play the role of an art tourist. Don’t forget to bring a souvenir as your artistic accomplishment. However, it is better to keep in mind that you are not a casual observer anymore.  You must try your best to engage with the surrounding and prepare a project which shows you were once a participant in that residency. 

The question is how we might represent a space in the short run? How is it possible to present a fair impression of that region as an artist when you are in touch not with the inhabitants but merely the artistic circles? You might say it is only an obligation to make a project to show that the residency experience has had an output for you.

Anyway, it’s too complicated to come to a clear conclusion. Besides, look at Sichong work! She really tries to dig into herself to meet her curiosity: she made a boat as an idea to show her deep-rooted desire for escaping. And she did this while she was in a residency. I think it’s a remarkable idea to make a boat in a residency. I will send the video link later.

I got what you said about university degree.  After graduation, we end up with a degree that shows how we once decided for our future,   but it doesn’t essentially determine where we actually end up. I constantly think about what to do with the things I learned and how to make use of them.  You might collect everything, pile them up and stick them together to make a city hall monument, or you could mash them all and mix it well with some glue to make a paper mache` dough. The next option will be to hear it from the left ear and get rid of it by the right ear; but if you do have metal ears, like those in the picture you sent, all they taught you would remain in your ears.

Anyway, I am eager to show you the videos I received from our colleagues. I’d really like to know your opinion about their curiosities.

Looking forward to hearing from you in metal ears

Warm wishes from Tehran

Nebras     

Dearest Nebras,

I agree with you. I don’t believe that a residency program is a necessary step in the realization of the artists. Like I mentioned, being an artist can be misleading to me. I like to think of art as a way of understanding the world – seeing the shadows, playing with the light, creating a song that explains and records the time, creating a piece that leaves a mark of a political critique, or even playing with reality to question the ‘logic’ that we follow.

The project I wanted to discuss with you was this: I Am Dreaming of a Chair, a Chair for Two.

People would sit back to back – share the same backrest but facing opposite directions.

This chair would have a special device, on one end of the device you have a talking horn that amplifies the sound and delivers the message to the other side of the horn, received by the ear of the person sitting on the other side of the chair. 

This chair would be used to tell secrets without having to see the face of the person listening to your secret.  You could also share a fear, a dream, or declare your love. 

These are some of the issues that the videos presented in this festival will convey.

Questions about life and questions about creation:

How does the examination of the every-day lead to the extra-ordinary? How does the conversation around water, my water, the water we drink, can reveal so much about a city, about it’s planning and about the rights of its citizens. How does a group of still people transmit such a sense of urgency to produce the desire for reaction and creation? How do melting materials and their melting sound lead to such a dark place in humanity? 

My chair, yet to be built, would provide the device for these words to flow from mouth to ear. However my chair does not include any attraction for the eyes. Your eyes would be left to your own control and they might even get lost inside or outside of your head trying to picture the secrets you hear.

I truly wish I could attend the Limited Access Festival you guys are preparing in Tehran. I’m sure the screening and its curation will provide the space and the time where moving images will poetically and bravely propose many of these questions. 

Please keep me informed! I would love to send one of my iron ears and iron eyes so it can transmit back all the work that will be shown, not to be considered as a secret, but rather, a transnational inspirational and informative transmission device, from your reality to mine. 

With love, 

Juli

Parachuter (Chatrbaaz) VR – 2021

It was the fourth year/ since the establishment of my mother’s business. / The business she started when we realized I can’t make ends meet / while studying at the art university in California. It was by my insistence, that my mom entered this officially and legally. She started a corporation registered in the US, we paid taxes and we’ve got sales permits,
We started to buy wholesale from large suppliers,
The boxes would come directly to the house, together with the catalogs and the complete sizing and measurements.

There was only one problem: The country of destination for the items to be sold not only had zero business relations with the US, but also suffered a full embargo for decades. We somehow became the peacemakers’ delegation and started to make contacts.

The clothes would be shipped to Dubai by post, the shipping company would receive the parcel and would send them along with the fabrics which my father would order each season from the UAE.

Slowly the sanctions grew heavier and harder and the exchange rate for the US Dollars was on the rise, the same would go with the shipping costs and transport.
There was the only option left:
To go to Iran a few times a year with suitcases full of night dresses and evening gowns. 

At first I would travel only during summer breaks, but as the shop in Iran has been slightly successful, we had to go 2-3 times a year instead of once a year, the plane tickets would cost much less than shipping from Dubai now. The dresses should be warped in a certain way, so their shiny and glittery sides were not visible. We would cover the dresses with matte papers and make them inside out and tie them together in a way that the custom officers at the airport wouldn’t bother to go through them thoroughly.


Shopping the dresses and packing them were the fun part.


getting on board the plane, reading books and watching films were the same as for any other passenger. 


But the real fear would come when you would get on board the next flight from Dubai to reach your final destination, the Tehran International Airport,  where you would be scared tremendously with cold sweat on your forehead.


You can’t even talk to the person sitting next to you, you wish you could only travel to Tehran just like any other person.
That year unlike always, I was alone, and being alone was so much more difficult as it was my mom who knew how to talk with the inspectors. Sound_05_06



“What’s wrong with that I am serving the country, we don’t have [proper] evening dress in Iran and we are sanctioned, even a single grain can’t be imported, I’m bringing quality [American!] clothes!”


Or she explain say:
“It’s my daughter’s wedding, we have a tradition to give wedding dresses as a gift to the guests, Tell me what to do? Should I be dishonored in front of my family? 

Or she might say:

Am I too foolish to bring all these dresses [into the country], Family and acquaintances gave money to me so I could buy these, and it’s so unfair that I pay a fine on behalf of them!”


Sometimes, there was a stubborn person in charge, and she would say: “Ok, but only this time let me go, it won’t happen again.” Then, she would get rid of him by giving him a wrong phone number or any other creative way she could think of.

“But what the heck should I be doing? I couldn’t tell any of those stories, I just don’t know how, and I don’t have the tongue either.”

Long story short, in this particular trip except two suitcases full of night dresses, I had a hang bag and camera bag full of clothes too. I should say that instead of 2 months I have been away, that I came back after a year.


“The inspector would be looking at me and believe me if he feels like to, otherwise he would ask for my passport, to see my entry stamps, to decide if I can go through the green line with no customs inspection, or god forbid he might point me toward the red corridor, the x-ray machine and tables at the end of the hall, where they open up suitcases for a full search.”


The 2-hour flight from Dubai, feels like 50, After passport control when you are going down the escalator, you should oversee the situation rapidly, how does this look? Is there an inspector standing there telling passengers to go green or red? And there he was!


“I could see my mom, who seemed to be waiting for an hour there,
waving at me from behind the glass,
Trying to tell me with her gestures and body language that he is the guy and watch out & beware!”


“We wouldn’t give luggage to the airport porters, that would look worse and it would make the inspector more eager to open the suitcases. No matter how heavy they were, I should load them on the trolley myself acting as if they are very light.”
While waiting for the two suitcases till I put them on the trolley, I was thinking to myself:
“Why should this be considered wrong? Why, what I have done by having two suitcases full of night dresses that would be called smuggling?!”

Approaching the inspector, my hands felt as cold as ice, he said:
“How many times have you been away from Iran?”

I said: “one year”

Looking at me from head to toe, saying: “You’re free to go!” 


“I have been driving a lot, but no green light ever has felt as sweet as this one, passing through the green lane of the Iranian Customs. Walking out of the arrival gate, my mom came towards me with a big smile:
“Thank god, it went well this time!”

We had far too many of these “This Times” that I can barely count. The good thing was after passing this level what was left was only ironing, sorting and hanging the goods on the racks in our shop.

“That year, I have been filming the streets and alleys of Tehran with their mesmerizing LED lightings of the shops and shopping malls for a University project, but I couldn’t imagine what I was doing on the side, becoming a project itself one day. 

In all those years, my friends and former classmates would think: What a rich and carefree artist, coming to Iran from the US and taking photos and filming the streets, then departing to make an “art project” back in California with her mentor at the art university!”


Mom’s boutique was forced to close down for good three years ago because of the free fall of Iranian Rial compared to the US dollar and the economic crisis which followed. 

Most of the dresses are still at home somewhere on racks or packed in a suitcase or two. It seems that these peace-making efforts didn’t work out well at all. Each one of us is now living in a corner of the world, trying to make the ends meet.

The clothes’ color and look are degrading and I blame myself why an art student thought of establishing a business?
Maybe because of the attractiveness of the shine and vibrant colors of the fabrics which I grew up with:

Many fabric rolls which were stacked at home.
Mom and Haji [my grandpa] at nights returning from Bazaar and starting to roll and fold them constantly, I was both enjoying and in awe with their speed while rolling the bolts:

“The dance of fabrics between the cardboards and the wrapping paper”

Contact

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