Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam: “Modern Trends in Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Art and the Question of Alternative Modernism”

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam (Tehran/Berlin) held a lecture on “Modern Trends in Pre-revolutionary Iranian Art and the Question of Alternative Modernism” during the Annual Conference “Global Modernisms: Contiguities, Infrastructures and Aesthetics”, 5 – 7 November 2015, at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. The Conference was organized by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and convened by Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices.

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam: “Modern Trends in Pre-Revolutionary Iranian Art” from ForumundMaxWeber on Vimeo.

During recent years and by the application of post-colonial theories to art history practices, many scholars have sought to formulate different versions of modernism across the globe. Challenging the uniqueness and originality of Western modernism, the debate about the multiplicity of modernist art offers a prism for assessing the arts of non-Western cultures with regards to both their aesthetic and socio-political values. There is, however, a risk of ignoring the spatio-temporal particularity of notions such as ‘progress,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘secularity,’ and ‘academicism’ embedded in Western modernity, and accordingly modernism, in favour of the universalism of modernist art. This lecture focuses on ‘Iranian modernism’ in the timeline between the 1950s and 1970s and the ways in which it has been characterised as both indigenous and universal to reinforce the idea of alternative modernism during recent years. From the avant-gardist movement of Fighting Rooster to the state-supported Saqqa-Khaneh School, Iranian artists adopted and transformed modernist aesthetics to combine the traditional with the modern and contemporary.

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam. Photo: Luise Illigen/Art Histories

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam. Photo: Luise Illigen/Art Histories

In his lecture, he intends to examine the ways in which modernism was perceived among Iranian artists, intellectuals and cultural administrators during the reign of the second Pahlavi monarch, which was coincided with the intensification of the Cold War. To evaluate the artistic practices of this crucial period in contemporary history of Iran, Moussavi-Aghdam discusses the asymmetrical encounter of Iranian artists with Euro-American modernism through utilising the notion of contemporaneity with regards to the idea of multiple modernisms and global art history today.

Combiz Moussavi-Aghdam is a researcher in the field of modern art history, philosophy of art and science, queer theory and contemporary Iranian art. He received his doctorate degree in Art History and Visual Studies at Manchester University in 2009. He has been teaching at Tehran Art University since 2011. One of his main concerns in both research and teaching is to articulate the new methods of art history and the ways they could be applicable in Iranian context today.

The following interviews and contributions have emerged from the conference:


Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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