Poster for the Tehran Monoxide Project.water shortages and air pollution posing increasingly grave threats to the Middle East, artists in the region are working to make environmental issues more visible, both at home and in international forums, including Iraq's first pavilion since 1976 at the Venice Biennale.
In Iran, where protesters have been harshly repressed and even reportedly tortured for demanding protection for the dying Lake Urmia, artists are also making bold statements against other types of environmental degradation, Tafline Laylin wrote recently for the Mideast environmental news site Green Prophet.
Iranian Artists Tackle Deforestation, Pollution
In the city of Kerman, a group of Iranian artists used chunks of wood to block a city street as a way of protesting against deforestation. In smoggy Tehran, one of the world's most polluted cities, other artists have put together the Tehran Monoxide Project, an exhibit of mixed-media works at a local school reflecting their concern about children's health in a place where "the city and its pollution are inseparable."
Iraqi Artists Focus On Water
The six Iraqi artists from two different generations chosen for the country's Venice Biennale pavilion have meanwhile focused on something they see as more of an emergency situation than civil war or terrorism: lack of water. Azad Nanakeli's haunting installation "AU," for example, reflects the artist's "return[ing] to his Kurdish home Erbil to find all of the wells contaminated with waste and chemicals," Laylin wrote in a separate Green Prophet piece.
The theme for the Iraqi pavilion, titled "Wounded Water," was chosen to draw attention to a critical resource "now in crisis due to diversion, contamination, and neglect," curator Rijin Sahakian wrote in the exhibition's catalog. "Its scarcity has caused the endangerment, and in some cases the extinction, of various peoples, animal and plant species... [but] both artists and scientists have found new means of adaptation to new environmental circumstances."