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Published on May 26, 2015
Vali Mahlouji talks about the exhibition he has curated for the Whitechapel Gallery entitled A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis on display from 21 April to 6 October 2015.
The subject is the decade-long controversial Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-77) and the project refers to documents and records of the Festival in order to reconstruct the complex networks of ideas that informed its original curatorial direction. In the immediate aftermath of decolonisation, the Festival treated cultural expressions from Asia and Africa as being equal to all others. Its pioneering approach brought together these distant voices with expressions from both sides of the Iron Curtain. The expression of these non-European sensibilities found a natural ally in the internationally fluid and subversive avant-garde, which sought to break from the constraints and stabilities of its own traditions. The Festival proposed a sophisticated version of universalism that rejected any reductive principle of a unified globalised culture.