I've Heard Stories A Film Program

Curated by Azar Mahmoudian


Wednesday May 28, 2014
7 – 9pm

City of Toronto Archives,
255 Spadina Rd., Toronto ON

Presented by the Blackwood Gallery in partnership with the City of Toronto Archives and SAVAC
(South Asian Visual Arts Centre) in conjunction with the exhibition Incident Light, curated by Leila
Pourtavaf and on view at the Blackwood Gallery from May 25 – July 27, 2014.

Shirin Sabahi, Swede Home, Iran/Sweden, 1966/1973/1975/2009,14:15 min.
Curatorial Statement

Taking its title from the lead film by Marwa Arsanios, I’ve Heard Stories is a film program exploring the intersection of art and documentary practices. The selected works reveal a variety of narratives on location, landscape, and territory built on archival materials as well as fictional anecdotes, bringing together conflictual statements about spaces in transition. The films reenact events, reproduce stories, or play narratives against images to create a spatial disorientation. Collectively, they point to the ways in which archives perpetually mediate the relationship between personal and historical modes of knowing.

- Azar Mahmoudian

Click here for the Film Screening brochure.


Azar Mahmoudian (born 1981, lives in Tehran) is an independent curator and researcher. She received her MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009. Her research focuses on issues of archival and historical modes of cultural representations. She has curated exhibitions and screenings for the Cultuurcentrum, Bruges; Contemporary Art Brussels; and School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She collaborates with Tehran-based project spaces, and was a 2014 Fellow of Global Art Forum 8, Dubai.



POLITICS OF DISPLAY: Reflections on International Exhibitions of Iranian Art
A lecture by Azar Mahmoudian
Friday, May 30, 4PM
Bancroft Hall 200B
4 Bancroft Avenue, Toronto

Since the early 2000s, there has been a proliferation of curatorial initiatives that feature the presentation of “Iranian Art” for international audiences. An array of survey exhibitions have been (re)produced under a national label, with an emphasis on “roots” and “origins”, which claim to offer a glimpse into an isolated society.  Mahmoudian offers a critique of this model of knowledge production in curatorial practice and asks us to actively question the paradigm of national exhibition making in particular, and the regionalization of art as a credible producer of content in general. Looking at the modes of distribution of the art which is produced in Iran, she maps the structures of visibility of Iranian art within the current system of international art circulation. As an alternative, she concludes that archiving can be a productive strategy for opening up the dominant historicist model of art exchange.

Presented by the Foundation for Iranian Studies.

Film Program

Marwa Arsanios | Lebanon, 2008 | 4:42 min
Rumours surrounding unreported murders in the mythical Hotel Carlton in Beirut are pieced together in an animation blending drawings and video, gossip and facts in an effort to give the crime a place in the history of the city. Against current images of the deserted hotel, situations are sketched that evoke the rumours that once circulated around the place and the people who inhabited it.

Marwa Arsanios (born 1978, Washington DC; lives and works in Beirut) received her MFA from the University of the Arts, London (2007). Her work has been shown internationally including at Art Dubai, Berlinale, Homeworks Forum V and VI, Beirut; Tokyo Wonder Site; Istanbul Biennale; Cornerhouse, Manchester; and most recently at the 55th Venice Biennial in the Future Generation Art Prize@Venice. Her videos have been screened in several festivals and events including the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, e-flux storefront, and Centre Pompidou. Arsanios has received a number of grants and in 2012 was nominated for the Pinchuk Future Generation Art Prize and the Sovereign Art Prize. She is a founding member of the artist organization 98weeks Research Project Space in Beirut.


Shirin Sabahi | Iran/Sweden, 1966/1973/1975/2009 | 14:15 min
Footage from three reels of 8-mm film taken by Jan Edman is supplemented by a commentary Edman provides thirty years later. The Swedish engineer travelled to Iran fifteen times between 1966 and 1980 for the purpose of realizing industrial projects that were commissioned by various Iranian state-owned and private industries during the heyday of the country’s modernization. Among these undertakings was a slaughterhouse, located in a southern suburb of Tehran, which was repurposed as a cultural centre during the process of gentrification in the 1990s. Oblivious to the faith of his projects, Edman’s voice vacillates between disinterest and abrupt enthusiasm as he recounts a life spent travelling.

Shirin Sabahi (born 1984, Tehran; lives in Berlin) received her MFA from Malmö Art Academy. Sabahi works with residues of developments in architecture, cinema, and science, and the function of objects and their projected value within these disciplines. Her works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including De Hallen, Bruges; Contemporary Art Brussells; Kuenstlerhaus, Stuttgart; Oberhausen Short Film Festival; CCS Bard, New York; and Platforma Revolver, Lisbon.


Neil Beloufa | Algeria/France, 2010 | 14:00 min
A cardboard decor and photographs reconstitute a luxury California-type villa in Algeria. Its inhabitants, neighbours, and other protagonists imagine themselves explaining why and how the villa became occupied by terrorists as a hiding place despite being made entirely of glass.

Neil Beloufa (born 1985, Paris) studied at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) and the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, Cooper Union in New York, and Le Fresnoy - Studio national des arts contemporain in Tourcoing, France. His work has been shown widely in contemporary art venues and film festivals, including Kunstraum Innsbruck; the Kunsthaus Glarus; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the New Museum, New York; the Toronto International Film Festival; and the London Film Festival. He has received several awards, notably the Prix Videoforme of Clermont Ferrand, the Grand Prix at IndieLisboa, and the ARTE prize for a European Short Film at the 54th Oberhausen Film Festival. Sans titre was awarded the Grand Prize of the City of Oberhausen at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 2011.


Basma Al Sharif | United States, 2007 | 11:38 min
In an empty room, a slideshow projection of abandoned places plays alongside the narrative of two girls who find themselves on the shores of a pre-apocalyptic paradise. Factual texts drawn from the Madrid Peace Accords and the CIA World Factbook are woven into a fictional narrative that unfolds the story of
a massacre.

Basma Al Sharif (born 1983, Kuwait) has developed her practice nomadically since receiving an MFA in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Living and working between Cairo, Beirut, Sharjah, Amman, Gaza, and most recently, Paris, Basma’s work operates between cinema and installation. Her works have been shown in solo exhibitions, biennials, and festivals including Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Videobrasil, and Manifesta 8. She was awarded a Jury Prize at the 9th Sharjah Biennial, won the Marion McMahon Award at the Images Festival in Toronto, and was a guest of the Flaherty Film Seminar in upstate New York.


Miranda Pennell | UK, 2010 | 28:00 min
Medical missionary Theodore Leighton Pennell’s 1908 memoirs, Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier, provide the narrative for a film constructed of still photographs from the period. Searching for clues to the realities behind images framed during a time of colonial conflict, the photographs are forensically examined and probed to reveal the beauty and charm of Army life on the North West frontier of British India. Meanwhile, the Afghans who occupy the shadowy nitrate background observe yet another colonial

Miranda Pennell (born 1963, London) originally trained in contemporary dance and later studied visual anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her current practice reworks colonial photographic archives as a material for film. Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed (2010) was awarded best international film at the Images Festival in Toronto and the Courtisane Festival of Media Art in Ghent. The film has been widely screened in international exhibitions including The Politics of the Fixed Image, Xcéntric at CCCB in Barcelona; Colonial Specters, Mumok Kino at the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna; Tate Britain’s Assembly: survey of recent artists’ film and video in Britain 2008–2013; Autobiography and the Archive, Whitechapel Gallery in London. It is available on DVD, published by Filmarmalade. Pennell is currently completing a feature-length film based on the photographic archives of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now the British Petroleum Company).


I've Heard Stories is presented by the Blackwood Gallery in partnership with the City of Toronto Archives with community support from SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre). The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges support from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Brochure design by Aliya Pabani
Copyediting by Megan Watcher