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Copy/Paste

The Exhibition Copy/Paste, curated by Shahram Entekhabi, and taking place at Tarahan Azad Art Gallery, Tehran and CC. art space, Isfahan from April 22nd to July 14th explores the idea of duplication and reproduction within Western and Islamic art. Shahram Entekhabi, Iranian/German curator, asks how the ideas present within Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction challenge ideas situated within Iranian art, where artisans copied the Islamic religious artifact, and thus, also practiced an art of copying. Written in the early 20th century, Walter Benjamin wrote how reproductive technology eliminates the aura behind a work of art, making the contemporary artwork something distinct from its predecessor. By bringing artists from Berlin to Iran, Entekhabi wonders how the notion of reproducing an origin is different within an Islamic context, as within the history of art, Icons were forbidden, and instead artisans reproduced patterns and motifs in distribute thought. Can Walter Benjamin’s aura/reproduction binary persist in a non-western context?

The exhibition features prominent international, Berlin based artists: Monica Bonvicini, Candice Breitz, Birgit Brenner, Mathilde ter Heijne, He Xiangyu, Christian Jankowski, Helmut + Johanna Kandl, Christin Lahr, Karin Sander, Egill Sæbjörnsson, Kai Schiemenz, Anatoly Shuravlev and Vadim Zakharov. However, many artists address the idea of reproduction, often related to the Global South. For instance, Candice Breitz film The Character, 2011 shows fifteen children from South Asia organized within a grid. Each child was asked to remember and then reenact his or her favorite Bollywood child actor. The film asks how cultural representation is imbedded within memory, specifically in a non-western context, and how it is played out on youth culture. Christin Lahr’s Haben-Macht-Schuld, 2016/17, (Having makes pain) links reproduction to capital and asks what pain is at the heart of its accumulation. Christian Jankowski’s The Eye of Dubai shows Jankowski traipsing around Dubai blindfolded, directing a camera crew. The film is about experiencing Dubai without sight for the first time and creating a destabilizing experience of culture clash. He Xiangyu work Portraits, 2016 are a series of inkjet prints that reference a social media gathering of strangers. Using social media to make a large information loop filled with delays and misunderstandings, the artist asks how people themselves can be copies of rendered information.

Overall, Copy/Paste leaves the idea of aura behind in favor of exploring the migratory form of the art-commodity, to which artists nowadays take shape bringing different global currencies and forever disrupting the notion of a permanent, authentic origin.

*The writer assisted on the research for Mathilde ter Heijne’s Woman to Go

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Vanessa Gravenor is a writer and artist based in Berlin. She has written for N.Paradoxa, ArtSlant, Sleek Magazine, EXPO (Chicago), and Bad at Sports. She can be found on twitter as @femmepicaro

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