• Alternative Iran: Contemporary Art and Critical Spatial Practice
    Pamela Karimi
    Stanford University Press, 2022
    Pamela Karimi

Av Theatre Group, Melpomene, play directed by Babak Mohri. 2013. Old underground thermal bath, Tehran. Photo: Jeremy Suyker

Drawing on spatial and temporal turns that have animated Iranian art scenes since the 1980s, Alternative Iran illuminates the economic, political, and intellectual forces that have driven Iran’s creative class toward increasingly original forms of unconventional artmaking not meant for museums or performance halls. These artworks appear instead in private homes, non-commercial galleries, showrooms with “trusted” audiences, dilapidated structures, buildings under construction, leftover urban spaces, and remote natural sites. Flouting the conventions of the art market and negotiating the regime's ideological protocols, these loosely covert activities offer an enthralling inquiry into what is commonly referred to as critical spatial practice. Throwing into sharp relief Iran's extraordinary art scenes, Karimi further discloses anomalous instances when the state and other powerful agents appropriate the same spatial techniques of loose covertness to bring aspects of the alternative into the limelight, either to better regulate the creative community or to challenge the system from within.

Pamela Karimi earned her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009 and is currently an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Karimi is the author of Domesticity and Consumer Culture in Iran (Routledge, 2013) and coeditor of “Images of the Child and Childhood in Modern Muslim Contexts” (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 2012), “Reinventing the American Post-Industrial City” (Journal of Urban History, 2015), and The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East: From Napoleon to ISIS (Aggregate, 2016). Her major curatorial projects include Urban Renewal and Creative Economy in Massachusetts Gateway Cities, Stateless, Black Spaces Matter, and Contemporary Iranian Art & the Historical Imagination. Karimi has held fellowships from many organizations, including the Iran Heritage Foundation at SOAS. More recently Karimi was the corecipient of a major grant from the Connecting Art Histories Initiative at the Getty Foundation. Cofounder of Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, Karimi currently serves on the boards of Thresholds Journal and the Association of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey.