Category: Performance Box

Video of Performance Box Curatorship at Mohsen Gallery

Review of the Exhibition

‘Through an unknown email, you are informed of a call for artists different from all you have seen before. Inspired by a short-short story by Peter Handke you are asked to provide an idea that can fit into a box measuring 40*40*30cms. The time is too short and nothing comes to your mind,’ writes Nima Emrani, an artist participating in Performance Box Curatorship held at Mohsen Gallery from 1 to 6 Oct. 2010. ‘You read the short story over and over again. You refer to the instructions to hopefully find a way. According to the instructions you should not try to be too complicated or incomprehensible. The text says the viewer is condemned to watch. You believe it not. You are confident that it is you who is condemned: condemned to create.’ We had brought our own gallery space to the gallery: a cardboard box for a single audience sitting on an adjustable chair who could view the content of smaller boxes attached one after the other to the performance box. The artworks were in different media: videos, paintings, sculptures, installations, sound art, interactive pieces, found objects, etc. Even the text quoted here was submitted by Nima Emrani to the exhibition as an artwork:  ‘What if you do not participate at all? You feel stupid and are overwhelmed with a sense of inability and absurdity. You stubbornly dismiss all ideas that come to your mind. Time is running. You are angry with yourself. Gradually, you become angry with the organizers of the exhibition. You sneer at their idea of democratizing the exhibition but it does not make you feel better. You try to convince yourself not to participate at all: the main idea is impossible. It is stupid to work under such conditions.’ The idea was to hold an exhibition, in which no artworks is excluded but not all artworks are seen either; one in which any artist could present her work and curate without the guarantee if, or how many times, her artwork would be seen: the viewers where free to choose their curator or curate for themselves according to artwork descriptions: viewer chose the person who would choose for him. ‘You torture yourself. You think of sale so as to feel better. You think of a magnificent idea that can earn you lots. It soothes you not. You think the money you receive measures not up to the pleasure that the organizers experience by torturing you. You did not expect this. You were expecting a better opportunity and they have caught you off guard. You think it is not fair; you have been oppressed.’ The idea of choosing a short story as the theme or subject of the exhibition was actually based on good intensions. The artists were free to do whatever they wished with it and we made sure the viewers would read the one-page-long text before entering the performance box. The artists were actually creating a context for a particular text. We meant any harm. ‘You think you have been insulted both as an artists and a human being. You feel offended. All this has been intended to tease you. You are confident that you were not expected to design anything in the first place. You were not supposed to do anything. It is all a game. This drives you mad.’ Many viewers too, saw it as a (serious) game which was where the performative element would step in. Viewers had to go through a ritualistic procedure for attending the show. After an online booking way in advance through our website ( they would be contacted by phone and an appointment would be set. Once in the gallery, they were asked to read the instructions and finally choose their curator. Then their height was measure so that the performance box could be adjusted accordingly. ‘You have voluntarily stepped into a game designed for tormenting you. You were not aware of this. Nobody had alarmed you and this is unfair. You are stuck and have no way back. You are angry. You wish you had never opened the email.’ Once in the Performance Box, they had their picture taken. Then they were given less than a quarter of an hour to watch and participate in their chosen curatorship. The sash-windows would open one by one, and viewers were exposed, according to their choice, to all sorts of artworks: one artwork might have asked you to take in, for a particular number of minutes, a very bad smell whilst listening to the artist’s voice addressing you, or another would require you to save a life of a gold fish dying in front of your eyes by sucking water out of a straw from a bowl containing a frog!

The exhibition tried to mimic gallery procedures as closely as possible bringing them to the foreground: boxes were salable and the gallery, the corresponding curator, artist and performer had a share. (Look at the graph.) The whole ritual was supposed to be undertaken and taken seriously despite the temporariness of the material or the idea behind the exhibition. Publicizing was done through social networking. We also tried to test how artworks work on viewers when they are in a one-to-one relationship with the audience. The influence of viewer comments was removed to a great extent: every viewer experienced the exhibition individually and in a different manner and could not discuss it with others.

The exhibition itself was a result of a group work. Originating from my performance classes at Mah-e-Mehr institute in Tehran, the performance group organizing the exhibition had the objective of ‘thinking and creating together’ as its first priority. /a:t/BrE  (or the British pronunciation of the word ‘art’) is the ironic name of a group which, once its current registration process is over, will become the first official Iranian performance company.

An English review of the exhibition appearing in Art Tomorrow magazine, can be accessed here. The Persian version of the site contains further links to some Persian reviews of the exhibition.

Photos from the Second Day

Photos from Exhibition

Artists Participating in Performance Box Curatorship

Cutartists’ Friends

Participants in Performance Box Curatorship at Mohsen Gallery, Tehran, 01 Oct. 2010.

Catalogue for Performance Box Curatorship

Curatorship at Mohsen Gallery

The following artists together with 89 viewers participated in Performance Box Curatorship at Mohsen Gallery, Tehran.

Sara Abri, Hediyeh Ahmadi, Gholam Hassan and Mohammad Amin Ahmadi, Nima Esmailpour, Hadis Aghakhanbeygi, Ghazaleh Behirai, Ali Banakar, Bavand Behpoor, Amir Hossein Bayani, Shiva Beyranvand, Shervin and Kasra Pashai, Mania Pakpoor, Mansooreh Panahbarkhoda, Atefeh Parhizkar, Shahpour Pouyan, Roxana Piroozmand, Zahra Jafarpoor, Kianoosh Tanha, Mohsen Saghafi, Setareh Jabbari, Ma’edeh Jenab, Zahra Hosseini, Hossein Hosseini, Khosrow Khosravi, Farzad Khalifeh, Parisa Rajabiyan, Samira Rahbani, Ghasem Rahimi, Mohaddeseh Rahimitabar, Elham Rasmi, Elnaz Ranjbar, Mehdi Zare’i, Shahnaz Zehtab, Shahrokh Shahinfar, Khoosheh Shayan, Rozita Sharafjahan, Hamid Reza Sadeghi, Behrang Samadzadegan, Tahmineh Tahbaz, Zahra Tabataba’i, Elham Zarifkar, Mohammad Hossein Abdali, Samireh Abdi, Asareh Akasheh, Nima Emrani, Shiva Fallahi, Farrokh Falsafi, Haleh Ghasemi, Minoo Ghahramani, Behnam Kamrani, Negin Ganjavi, Morteza Mahallati, Elaheh Moghaddami, Shiva Mihan, Nooshin Nafisi, Tali’eh Vafamehr, Reza Hedayat, Saideh Yeganeh

Statement for Performance Box Curatorship

Performance Box Curatorship is in its own way an attempt at pluralizing the idea of curatorship and expanding gallery walls. Even in cyberspace where exhibition space is unlimited, there should be someone to decide what to be seen and set the priority. In ‘Performance Box’, we tried to allow the viewers to choose their curator: no viewer sees all artworks, rather chooses the person who will choose for him. Every one of the fifty artists participating in this exhibition has decided upon the curatorship of their work choosing the artworks that will be shown before and after their artwork and the duration of their exhibition. If most artists find an artwork weak and unworthy of exhibition, they will not include it in their curatorship thus reducing its visibility without excluding it altogether. However, the exhibition remains different from festivals where anything is exhibited.

In this exhibition we also tried to test how artworks work on viewers when they are in a one-to-one relationship with the audience. Here the influence of viewer comments is removed to a great extent: every viewer experiences the exhibition individually and in a different manner and cannot discuss it with others. None of the ninety viewers can see all the artworks. Every viewer has a share of 15-minutes in the exhibition which is exclusively hers. Since the audience is an inseparable part of such a performance, we have included the name of viewers in the catalogue.

As for the theme, we tried to provide artists with something to chew on. Instead of choosing a ‘subject’, we agreed upon a short-short story by Peter Handke and the artists were free to use it in any way they liked: the title, different elements or the general atmosphere could have been equally used. We did not intend to make it difficult for the artists but the story proved more difficult than we expected.

If you have not seen the exhibition and you are reading this, I can be of little help in explaining the quality of the exhibition or its success or failure. Thus I should stop. This is what we like about performance: you have to be there and see for yourself. If you have been there, then you have been an eyewitness and we are grateful for your cooperation. If you have not, what a pity. Maybe next time.

You can get Call for Artists in Persian from here.


The following bilingual brochure in pdf format (200Kb) provides you with invaluable guidlines on how to construct a performance box as we did. Click here! You can see the pages in your browser by clicking on the thumbnails below.

How Does the Thing Look Like?

These pictures show how our performance box works. You enter it, the door is closed, your head is covered, the boxes are attahced, sash windows are opened, the upper box rotates 360 degrees and you see what you see, what you have chosen to see and the artists and curators have chosen to be seen by you.

Most /a:t/BrE performances are done for a single audience. Therefore you have to book in advance in order to take part in our performances. Use the box below (IE users click on Comments) with your contact details or contact us via our email in order to book now. We will get back to you in two days. Once the places have run out you can still apply for waiting list!

Performance Box

Performance Box is a project for pluralizing the idea of curatorship. Designed for single audiences, it is actually a small cardboard gallery space in which the contents of four boxes can be shown in a desired manner. The audience enters an initial box which covers the body apart from the head. A second box which can revolve around the head is placed on top. Four shutters allow access to four smaller boxes that can be attached to and removed from the performance box.

For a curatorship at Mohsen Gallery, Tehran, 50 artists are chosen to submit works in small boxes on the subject of  a short-short story by Peter Handke (indicated below). Each artist is asked to curate a maximum of 15 minutes show by defining which boxes with which manner will be shown to an audience. The audience will choose among 50 different curatorships, thus making a visit to the gallery a rather personal experience. Any visit to the gallery shall be booked in advance. The show is advertised in the newspapers and boxes can be purchased by visitors. 10 percent of the money will go to the corresponding curator. All performers also submit a box.

Eyewitness Account

By Peter Handke

According to eyewitness account, it happened like this: a retarded boy, dragging feet on the ground and bouncing head as if hanging from his bulk comes out of the farm. Then, while mumbling unmeaning words, advances in the yard towards the cleaver used for chopping beets. At this point, the vacuous boy’s custodian comes out of a neigbouring house and teaches the crazy boy how to use the cleaver: he piles the beets next to the machine and raises, with one hand, the sharp blade of the cleaver and with the other hand brings forth a beet and finally chops the beet with its guillotine-like blade. Then the silly boy nods, then the custodian pushes the handle between the boy’s fingers and puts a beet, up to its leaves, under the blade, then the idiot boy raises the cleaver and in one move chops the leaves off the beet, then with his right hand grabs his custodian from his neck and cuts open his skull with one move, then lays the custodian down horizontally on the pile of beets and then the fingers, in a good position, let go the custodian’s neck who is throbbing, then thrusts the cleaver into the custodian’s neck with a little stroke of the left hand, then raises the cleaver again and strikes again and the custodian’s hands, in response to the stroke of the cleaver, jump up and the youngster raises the blade again and brings it down and the custodian’s hands jump up again and then the isolated youth, distressed and agitated, changes hands and strikes with his right hand, then the boy changes hands again and strikes with the left hand and according to the eyewitness account little by little his moves slow down, as seen in movies, changes hands, right hand, left hand, mumbling unmeaning words, chuckling and nodding unintentionally, pausing from time to time and rubbing his eyes, then strikes the custodian’s neck until he cuts his head off with great effort, after the corps’s numerous rolling and throbbing. At this point, when the eyewitness realizes that the idiot is mad to continue his strokes finally jumps over him, takes the cleaver and stops him angrily. (1965)