Listen. Newsha Tavakolian. 2010.

The “Listen” series focus on Iranian professional female singers who have been unable to perform solo or to produce their own music since the revolution in 1979. Tavakolian brought these singers to a private studio, and filmed/photographed them performing in front of a chintzy ‘70’s-era backdrop to an imaginary audience. The power of the series lies in the absence, the silence of their passionate performances.

In addition to her portraits of girls and singers, Tavakolian also created fictional CD covers (which metaphorically remain empty) that portray her own interpretation of Iranian society.Tavakolian writes, “For me a woman’s voice represents a power that if you silence it, imbalances society and makes everything deformed. The project ‘Listen’ echoes the voice of these silenced women. I let Iranian women singers perform through my camera while the world has never heard them.” For anyone interested in hearing more from Tavakolian, here is a brief video interview.

Text from ArtLog

Newsha Tavakolian listen singing woman

At The Window

By Paul Eluard

I have not always had this certainty, this pessimism which reassures the best among us. There was
a time when my friends laughed at me. I was not the master of my words. A certain indifference, I
have not always known well what I wanted to say, but most often it was because I had nothing to
say. The necessity of speaking and the desire not to be heard. My life hanging only by a thread.

There was a time when I seemed to understand nothing. My chains floated on the water.

All my desires are born of my dreams. And I have proven my love with words. To what fantastic
creatures have I entrusted myself, in what dolorous and ravishing world has my imagination
enclosed me? I am sure of having been loved in the most mysterious of domains, my own. The
language of my love does not belong to human language, my human body does not touch the flesh
of my love. My amorous imagination has always been constant and high enough so that nothing
could attempt to convince me of error.

The Sound of Silence

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “There are two things that don’t have to mean anything in order to give us very deep pleasure: one is music and the other is laughter”

But what is music? Can silence be music? Can the sound of traffic be music?

John Cage said: “The sound experience I prefer to all others is the experience of silence… If you listen to Bethoven or Mozart you see that it’s always the same, but if you listen to traffic you see that it’s always different”

With his composition 4’33” Cage proved that there’s no such thing as silence and he put forward the theory that all silence is music.

Play this video and listen to the sounds around you for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Repeat as many times as you want, you will hear a different song each time.

I hear: a faraway sound of a cooing pigeon, the wind, the phone ringing in the flat upstairs, a car speeding past, a gate closing downstairs, another gate slamming, a crashing sound (what is that?), a bird singing, voices coming from downstairs, a car screeching, and the pigeon is still cooing… This is the music of a Thursday morning in Tarragona.

What do you hear?