BORN IN TEHRAN, 
GROWN IN ITALY

INSTALLATION BY MEHRNOOSH SHAH-HOSSEINI, IRAN

JULY 2 – JULY 17, 2021

It is not immediately possible to detect an intellectual leitmotif in the various forms and splendour of colours in Iranian designer Mehrnoosh Shah-Hosseini’s artistic work, yet the presence of one captivates the viewer from the very first moment. There is something there. But – what do these posters, revelling in the obviousness of their kitsch, have to do with such fine, handmade shoes? And from what point of view can one reconcile the ascetic rigour of these cloth bundles with the smiles of harp-playing princesses?

In speaking with the Tehran-born artist, who was born in 1973, it soon becomes clear that commemorative reawakening, preservation and recontextualisation are central aspects of her work. On the one hand, there is a very personal, seemingly idiosyncratic motif that repeatedly leads Mehrnoosh back to the primal scenes of aesthetic childhood experience. “As my mother comes from Isfahan, the kitsch figures and atmospheres on the posters with which the bus drivers decorate the windows and doors of their buses were an intimate part of my visits to relatives. In many of my works today, I am actually trying to revive the power of childlike imagination, which quite naturally succeeds in harmonising heterogeneous elements.”

The technique of collaging disparate elements is also a central motif in her handling of materials. Shah-Hosseini was one of the first to attempt to reinterpret historical Iranian clothing styles for the present day. Be it to outfit actresses traveling to Cannes or to translate the colourful carefreeness of nomadic costumes into the multi functionality of modern urban clothing.

Yet Mehrnoosh is certainly anything but a traditionalist, as she is primarily interested in awakening the aesthetic utopias dormant in traditions. “The design and concept for the ‘Born in Tehran, Grown in Italy’ project were originally created in Tehran,” says the artist. However, she soon realised that her vision of magical shoes could only be realised by hand in Italy. And so these shoe archetypes with names such as Kahkeschan (cosmos) or Abtan (body of water) now seem like a parable for individual fates resulting from migration movements: Born in Tehran, Grown in Italy is thus confidently emblazoned on the soles and certificates of the unique pieces.

Unlike her shoes, which have become objects of art, Mehrnoosh Shah-Hosseini’s cloth bundles (boghche) are certainly objects of everyday use, but nevertheless also representatives of something more general: “What fascinates me about boghche is that such a simple textile concept is incorporated into such diverse cultural practices of use. On the one hand, people stored their riches in them and used the most exquisite fabrics for weddings, for example, to decorate them with gold thread. On the other hand, boghche were used as food bags or pouches for the hamam.” So they are always practical. It is now up to us to fill these textiles with meaning and life by rediscovering and recontextualising them in new usage practices.

Roshanak Zangeneh
(translated from German)

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