Before opening up and reading Urban Iran I thought I could guess what type of book I was going to get. It would be mostly outside shots with a couple artist bio’s talking about what they did and how they were avoiding the police in Iran. What the book ended up being was a collection of personal stories of how people are coping and in turn how that is influencing their art and culture around them. There were stories talking about particular industries like automobiles, publishing, music and stories about rebellion through facial hair, remembering childhood through books, and social commentary through art among other topics.
The book’s broken up into a couple broader themes from the other topics I mentioned above. There’s the Portraits of the Everyday and the Art of Publishing. In a lot of respects the essay titled Publishing in Iran by Charlotte Noruzi summed up the entire book quite succinctly. Below is an excerpt from the first paragraph.
“In a way, I’ve created a small window for myself through which I can “see” my country, a place that has been a mystery, kept secret and seperate in my mind. My collection of children’s books triggered my sense of curiosity, a desire to know what things are like in Iran now and the need to reconnect with where I am from. I wanted to lift the veil a little and see what’s underneath. I wonder what books were like. What was the publishing climate like now? What was it like to be an illustrator, publisher or artist now as opposed to pre-revolution times? How have things changed? Was their more expression, less? How had the ever-present living and working in Iran, among other places. Roots to my country that were severed so long ago seemed to come alive again with every person I talked to.”
In respect to music – both in terms of downloading and finding lyrics most people take that for granted. Yet imagine if you had to use a phone line to download tracks that would take days to finally complete. Another issue that bands and specifically to this book metal bands, that every band has had more cancellations than concerts. In Hair is for Head-Banging, Coco Ferguson and Sohrab Mohebbi talk about what it’s like to make music and the options out there for bands trying to do their art. In a different essay art was being used as a vehicle to suggest that graphic design is becoming complacent and mediocre b/c people are focusing too much attention on awards and clients outside of the boarders. (A common theme everywhere in the world it would seem). By taking the well known ideas about childhood monsters from their culture, they’ve turned that focus on to bringing attention to what others are doing in their creative field.
I couldn’t help but think while reading Urban Iran that as good as the internet is for finding things, almost all the imagery of the book is new to my eyes. There’s still a lot out there to discover and the stories behind those images contextualize things perfectly. If there was one thing missing with the book, it’s that there was no conclusion. It kind of just stopped, I would have been curious to read what was going to happen next. Will things get worse, better or stay the same?
Title: Urban Iran
Authors: Salar Abdoh and Charlotte Noruzi
Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher