The Beginning of the End

Shahrouz Nazari – 2017

The first time I saw Alireza, he was perplexed with a childish finding, an adventure that apparently didn’t seem to be a serious issue in those days! He found a would-be relation between calligraphy and minimalism, and was interested to examine their company. He added that minimalism carries a tacit spirituality in its nature as does writing. He wanted to make an object out of the words’ crumbs, an object that doesn’t show off its palpable being, but rather broach the very wordiness itself due to the meaning that the writing insinuates.

In fact, Astaneh created a language based on the morphological structure of Persian letters, whose understanding not only did require a command of Persian, but also a lack of which could make an easier and even deeper connection to this new world. The Persian shunning attitude is still discernable in the behavioral and even technical gest of his works. In the then-coming-years he depicted the words that didn’t imply their meanings.

Writing about a concept which should be alienated from itself so to be able to get closed to its meaning is a difficult affair that has been done in his last dispositions. As a consequent of his excess fondness to calligraphy he has come to negate it recently. To write about Astaneh’s calligraphy (he still insists on being called a calligrapher) you should put your feet on his footsteps and go through making “the inconsequential” so to be able to get close to his target meaning. He has devastated calligraphy in order to be able to make a medium out of it on its debris. The devastation has been used as a means of extracting a shape out of the basic form and make a secondary image which is neither like the formal one nor does it have an exclusive cast of its own, as if finding a dilapidated building and render it in the way it is. There lies an enchantment beneath this decadence; the enchantment that is deprived from anything, a spirituality that has hardly been evident, a cultivation that is difficultly cultivated which was first called by Oscar Wild as “the obsoleteness of the beautiful.”

Alireza Astaneh has gathered a complex of heterogeneous discourses, dissonant statements, philosophical, and aesthetical issues together to execute a concept about calligraphy which is beyond its defined ornamental and conceptual meaning, as being called “Dispositif” by Foucault, “the said as much as the unsaid”. This vacillating spirituality between the two non-synonymous but congruent meanings made me recall Roland Barthes’s “Readerly/Writerly” idea in his “the Pleasure of the Text”. A meaning that emerges from whisper and recital. Alireza Astaneh is repeating the recurrences intentionally. The words which he wants to de-semantise are put in a row consecutively one after the other, and has pursued a truth in this inquiry.

Many of the artistic projects of the century try to make the power of the very act of “repeating” comprehensible as a token of repetition itself, this is what Hegel calls the infinite quality…

Alireza Astaneh’s artworks can be understandable in a society like Iran which is in the process of post renovation and an intensive penchant for traditionalism; an indigenous interest that has been accepted world widely after September 11th  –though the ratio between tradition and political hegemony on one side, and tradition and non-ideological impetus on the other, has made the understanding of this concept complicated- surely for the perception of today’s art that is rooted in the past, a bipolar classification of  tradition and modernity is of no use. Mingling the past and present through a cliché composition of tradition and modernity has been so banal that the produced art by this conventional code can not be considered within the framework of art’s concept. Once-promised emancipation of the postmodernism didn’t come true. Renovation theory -postmodernism- couldn’t fill the fissure between the dominated norms and the peripheral ones. In the middle of 1980s the philosophers like Habermas (though he had some fundamental critiques towards postmodernism) considered postmodernism an incomplete project-as an ultimate option-that should be modified and completed rather than being discarded. Every artist’s attitude is based on the period’s discourse that dominates the era he is living. This coincidence can be a subsequence of the order of the internal signs according to Jean Baudrillard, or be on the basis of the era’s norms as Arthur Danto calls it, notwithstanding it is the period’s dominated discourse that defines the limitation and border of an artist. Considering the mentioned issue increases the value of Alireza Astaneh’s artworks. He started from calligraphy, became a member of the calligraphy society in which he made a name for himself through his expertise in nail calligraphy. Nonetheless, he discerned the incongruity between the very calligraphy itself and the period he has been living in.

Impertinence of a historical affair- that I have borrowed from David Donald, an eminent historiographer- alludes that the history’s accomplishment as an anterior backer is in no connection with the au-courant situation, and further more past and present are not in any relation with the other one logically. Astaneh has been lead to a realm through his hesitation in calligraphy’s aesthetics that is quite rare, not only in the historical calligraphy but also in todays’ calligraphy school of Saqakhane.

It might be necessary to clarify that hesitating in the stablished methods does not necessarily lead to the creation of a new world, adding that Alireza had already known that it is too late to be brand-new; yet there were not many ways to choose among for being an innovator in this field but two: one is supposed to go for an inventive typeface, providing a crooked, pendulous artifact which fluctuates between Naskh, Sols or Nastaaliq, or join the malcaligraphers who have been growing in swamp recently. There are some contemporary calligraphers who have tried to model a predecessor malcalligrapher like Zenderoudi as an attempt to negate the traditional calligraphy. Alireza Astaneh has never tried to be a calligrapher by going the opposite way as a malcalligrapher. He is depriving himself from the romantic and innocent signs that have been associated with the calligraphers, by molding calligraphy in a secular template. If you ask me, what has made Alireza an outstanding calligrapher, I might say that the secular characteristic of his word-statues that he owes to his attention toward the pop and minimalistic epistome; the “pop” that is not associated with irresponsibility and lightheartedness but rather as a synonym to waiting termination, association termination and gest of creativity termination that is being found in Baudrillard’s mechanism. But a question rises here that why he himself is still resisting his departure from calligraphy though being in the company of these terminations?

I suppose he truly knows that the only way to unfetter his mind from the constraint of the very title of calligraphy is to set free the concept of constraint itself. In the course of national arts (national as a substitute for traditional) and specifically in the realm of calligraphy, there is a dominant tendency in which the artist is likely to be regarded as an absolute nature of the rendered factor itself; and furthermore a bridge to deliver the holy phenomenon, like a priest or a mediator, so to make his art to carry a metaphysical power within itself. Alireza Astane has never had this mindset about the words and the letters; he has inserted a modular perspective in the circle of art production through which he has negated the relation between the erudition and calligraphy.

Jean*** believes that reconciliation of a holy atmosphere with one human practice is the result of overlapping the spiritual and social life of the people in specific eras of the history, he says when these two intervene, a tension bursts out which disvalues the so-called holy art thereafter.

Astaneh felt the necessity of being anti-norm when he encountered that the spirituality of the calligraphy is being lost as a marketable hobby and what was left behind was only a ragged cloak on the shoulders of the so-called traditionalists or a cat’s paw entertaining the dilettantes.

what still bounds him up in the realm of experiencing is Alireza’s rigid insistence on being a calligrapher; while concurrently it is this very nonsense persistence that values the words in the sake of words in his works. He has conferred repeatedly that as soon as he becomes unattached from his devotions he would be lost in a vast galaxy of ideas and thesis where he would have been no more than a pendulous vagrant.

Shahrouz Nazari

Translated by Bahareh Kianie

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