KIANA HAYERI at I.M.A. Gallery (80 Spadina, #305), to Saturday (March 31), artist talk today (Thursday, March 29), 7 pm, at Ryerson IMA Building (122 Bond, room 307). 416-703-2235. See listing. Rating: NNNN
From what we read, most of us imagine that Iranians, especially women, live in constant fear of morality police crackdowns on violations of state-mandated dress codes and inappropriate socializing between the sexes.
Kiana Hayeri, a young Iranian-Canadian documentary photographer who shot the images in Your Veil Is A Battleground (a reference to Barbara Kruger's Your Body Is A Battleground, a 1989 poster for the women's march on Washington) during a recent visit to her homeland, says this is not the case. People find ingenious ways of getting around the myriad restrictions. In fact, despite being pulled in by the morality police for wearing leggings, she says she had a lot of fun in Iran.
Her photos show why: she's turned her camera on the subversive strategies young women employ to engage in such forbidden activities as swimming, ballet, paintball, hookah-smoking, baring their heads in public and, of course, partying - complete with booze, pot and morning-after toilet-hugging.
Focusing mainly on people in everyday situations, Hayeri paints a compelling portrait of contemporary Iranian life.
Informative captions explain what's at stake when a woman puts on bright red lipstick or rides in a car with her boyfriend.
A series depicts people in the streets of Tehran for the Ashura holiday, a publicly sanctioned opportunity for the sexes to mix. Some images capture at-home conflict between male and female family members. A white-walled, empty art gallery is an example of the nation's many underground cultural venues.
Though her subjects' faces betray a certain understandable tension, Hayeri also conveys their irrepressible, joyful spirit of resistance. The recent Ryerson grad - who has taken her camera to Buenos Aires (where she photographed abandoned buildings as potential occupation sites for the okupas movement) and Brooklyn, documented Iranians in exile and plans to visit eastern Europe - is one to watch.