In the 2003 Istanbul Biennial the artist Shahram Karimi showed a work with the title "Traces" which he referred to as presenting the creative people of Iran who participated in the "collective struggle toward modernity." Painted on rice sacks, he made realistic portraits of 248 intellectuals many of whom are dead or in exile. Beside the mural he showed a video that wandered through a deserted city, suggesting as Shirin Neshat has stated "a melancholic sense of intended annihilation and erasure of history" ( Poetic Justice 126).
I conclude about the work in my forthcoming book on Art and Politics Now,
"This work achieved a perfect dialectic between high and low culture, the political and the poetic. The mural is in a material and style of the street, and speaks to everyone directly, the video with all of its vacancies and absences is the material of Biennial culture, but it uses that vacancy as a metaphor of the absences of history. "
Here is the mural part of the work. I don't have a photograph of the video, but I am also posting the list of writers, novelists, poets, composers, musicians, political leaders, theater directors, rug weavers, social workers, singers etc. Itis a powerful statement and record of both accomplishments and losses in contemporary Iran.
One of the people listed ( not in this detail) is the Iranian lawyer and Human Rights activist, Shrin Ebadi. She won the Nobel Prize in 2003. She is still in Iran working for legal rights for women and children, freedom of the press, the rights of political activists and other important causes. She announced in May that she would defend the scholar Haleh Esfandiari who was recently arrested in Iran. Ironically Ebadi had to sue the United States for the right to publish her memoir Iran Awakening in this country.