Haft Paykar | Seven Beauties is a group exhibition that revives, explores, and shares an ancient Persian text through an exercise in reception theory. This cultural theory fosters the idea that the meaning of any text is never fixed or transparent, rather shaped by a number of contributing factors by both the producer, who encodes a text with meaning, and the recipient, who decodes it. Interpretation is further shaped by distribution, personal experience, social circumstance, distance, and time.
Haft Paykar is a collection of 12th century poem and it has been selected as the starting point for participating artists and audiences to interpret and produce meaning. Haft Paykar was written by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, better known as Nizami, in 1197. It incorporates themes of exploitation, ambiguity, beauty, symbolism, multiculturalism, and self-actualization, through various literary forms, including non-linearity and epic storytelling. A key component is the assemblage of the seven beauties, or seven brides, who are summoned by the story’s protagonist, a heroic prince. Each beauty originates from a different region of the world and is represented by a different color, day of the week, and planet, which corresponds to her mood and shapes her character.
Seven female artists have been selected, who originate from the same seven regions, or “climes,” represented in the poem: Naiza Khan (Pakistan), Cui Fei (China), Anna Khodorkovskaya (Khwarazm/Russia), Neža Knez (Siqlab/Slovenia), Nicène Kossentini (the Maghreb/Tunisia), Nina Papaconstantinou (Rum/Greece), and Negin Mahzoun (Persia/Iran). Excerpts from the poem were used as a prompt for a new work that illustrates their interpretations and exercise in meaning-making. The results represent a wide range of creative approaches, media, and interpretations to bring the ancient poem into a contemporary context. Plays with form, materials, scale, aspects of time and space, language, metaphor, memory, geographies, and identity draw out, contemplate, and interrogate various aspects of the original text.
Natasha Chuk and Tooraj Khamenehzadeh