Fondation Behnam Bakhtiar Interview With Azadeh Akhlaghi


Azadeh Akhlaghi lives and works between Iran and Australia. Azadeh is a post-conceptual artist, beginning her career in 2001. Her main concern is photography, video-arts and making short movies.


Azadeh’s practice acknowledges conceptual and postmodern approaches to contemporary art through photography. She has an MA in Computer Science from RMIT University in Melbourne, while she did her thesis in databases search engine for photos. She was assistant director of Abbas Kiarostami and Manijeh Hekmat between 2005 and 2008 while she made a couple of short films that were screened in numerous film festivals such as Berkeley art museum, Pusan and Oslo.

FBB. Tell us a bit about yourself, Azadeh.


I was born in Iran in 1978.  When I was 18, I immigrated to Australia, where I pursued my higher education and received a degree in computer science from RMIT.  Eight years later, I went back to Iran, and for a while worked in the movie industry as a director’s assistant, and got the chance to work with such individuals as Abbas Kiarostami.  In the beginning, I wanted to become a film director, but later on became interested in staged photography.


FBB. Talk to us about your famous series ‘By an Eyewitness’. How did you come up with the idea behind it? And how long did it take for you to complete the series?

The idea of the By an Eyewitness series came about in 2009. The world was changing. The Arab Spring was in its peak, and everyday I was busy watching documentary films and pictures concerning Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Tunisia, and other countries in the region. It was during those days that I became more conscious about the subject of death, and that which has made people throughout history give up the most precious thing, which we call life, and look death in the eye. Slowly and slowly, I became conscious of the history; I remembered figures from the contemporary history of Iran that were willing to give their lives for a better life and a better tomorrow.


FBB. The research behind ‘By an Eyewitness’ must have been a challenge. How long did the process take?

The research phase of the project took about three years. I decided to recreate instances from the tragic deaths of figures in Iranian history where there were no cameras present at the time of their occurrences. In reality, I was trying to reconcile this history with the present. Iranians are essentially a mourning nation that in the course of their tragic history have had many deaths, but no time to cry for them. It was as if now, with the accurate reconstruction of the moment of death, even for once, I could say goodbye to the dead and to lay them to rest forever.

FBB. You also have a lot of experience in the film making industry. Talk to us about that.

I made a few documentaries and short movies prior to pursuing photography. At that time I really wanted to direct movies, but later on, slowly and slowly, I concentrated on staged photography.


FBB. Who are your favourite contemporary artists?

Well, naming my favorite contemporary artists is not so easy. Today’s world is full of great artists scattered throughout. Besides, there are a number of filmmakers, whose works I follow with much interest; but literature is the most important thing. In my opinion, the very essence of creativity is best imbedded in great fiction. I have read War and Peace many times and have admired Tolstoy for creating such complex scenes. Perhaps the peak of art can be found in the works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Balzac.


FBB. What projects are you working on presently?

At the moment I am working on my next project. It has been almost three years that I have been researching. I spend my days in the Library of Contemporary History and am busy with articles, documents, newspapers, and reports. The more I read, the more I realize that recreating history is an impossible task; history is full of contradictions. Each historian has his/her own take that is different from those of others. At the same time, people’s memories have captured different pictures of past incidents. Maybe that is why I am always seeking the truth like a detective, no matter how ineffective I am in its recreation.

FBB. Where can our audience buy your work?

To obtain my works, one can either contact me, or Mohsen Gallery in Tehran.






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