L to R: Photo Tapestry from the series; "Time of the Butterfly", 2011, Mixed Media, "Playboard", 2011--Courtesy of Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen

On the occasion of their 20th anniversary, the IFA (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen/Institute for Foreign Relations) galleries in Berlin and Stuttgart present “Political Patterns: Changing Ornaments”, the third exhibition in the series “Cultural Transfers“.

The series addresses the reciprocal influence among different cultures, which are manifested in political, economical and social structures as well as social norms and artistic statements.

“Political Patterns” examines the changing role of ornaments in today’s globalized world, underscoring the fact that cultural influences are always reciprocal.

Among the eight artists presented is Iran-born Parastou Forouhar. Her computer-generated patterns appear to be decorative and purely repetitive structures of arranged elements at first glance. Yet a closer look soon reveals the work’s strong social and political message: With a closer observation, one soon discovers weapons, target marks, and torture scenes.

Forouhar explores the structure within oppressive systems by appropriating the repetitive schemes of ornaments and replacing the floral or simply decorative single elements with symbols of violence and brutality. Just like the beauty of an ornament relies on its undisturbed, clear linearity, the oppressive political regime is based on repetitive, synchronized structures and obedience to political equalization. Divergence and individualism as irregularities within the structure interrupt the underlying principle in both.

“That which does not submit itself to the ornamental order, is not representable and hence does not exist, it is banned to the periphery of unworthiness, condemned to elimination” says the artist. Taking advantage of this inherent strucure of the ornament, Forouhar departs from the simple decorative language into a profound political reference and critique.

Upon studying the modes of visual perceptions, a reoccuring momentum appears in Forouhar’s oeuvre. There is a very fine line between ornamental patterns as purely decorative forms and those which transcend to a higher meaning, to a questioning allegory. In this process of personalization for the spectator, who determines the reading and meaning of the ornament’s message individually, the limits of such become apparent.

Despite the Western world’s growing interest in Oriental-Islamic culture and art, there seems to be a certain limit as to how much a Westerner can grasp.

How familiar can we be with the inherent meanings of, and sentiments towards, certain patterns, words, lines?

When do we begin to recognize non-Western art as such and how often do we rely upon the appropriation of Western forms in order to find value in it?

Given her personal background and history, Forouhar’s work can easily be linked to Persian art and recent Iranian politics and history. However, her long residence in Western Europe has embedded her work into a different context, an alternative mode of perception.

Exhibition Dates: July 8th –  October 3rd 2011

Other artists included: Doris Bittar, Adriana Czernin, Parastou Forouhar, Abdulnasser Gharem, Aisha Khalid, Zena el Khalil, Imran Qureshi, Philip Taaffe.

Admission: Free

For more information on how you can get to the IFA galleries in Berlin and Stuttgart, click here.

About Author

Dorothea Schoene

Dorothea Schoene is a Berlin-based art historian, freelance writer, and director of ikonoTV. Dorothea has studied in Leipzig and Hamburg/ Germany as well as University of California, Riverside. She is the recipient of a Fulbright grant, a Getty as well as a DAAD grant. Her published work has revolved around contemporary art, architectural and museum history, and looted art provenance.