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Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Announces Two Archives Exhibition

The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona presents Two Archives an exhibition on view 03/05/2012 – 02/09/2012.

Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi “Two Archives”, 2011

Since 2004, Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi have been working on joint projects and produce a bilingual magazine in Farsi and English under the name Pages. Their projects and the magazine’s editorial approach are closely linked, both are “attempts in articulating the indecisive space between art and its historical condition.

Their project for MACBA will be a further elaboration of their new project Two Archives, on view at Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany till June 19, 2011. Along with their exhibition at the MACBA the 10th issue of the magazine Pages will be produced and launched towards the end of 2012.

In Two Archives Tabatabai and Afrassiabi follow their interest in “historically unresolved features of modernity.” The project departs from two archives related to the construction of modernity and modernization in the 20th century. One is the collection of Western modern art from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art – a large collection that was inaugurated in 1977 together with the opening of the museum as part of the government’s rapid modernization project. The other archive is that of the British Petroleum (BP) related to the company’s origin in Iran from 1901 to 1951, when it found the first oil in the Middle East. This archive was produced simultaneously with the company’s rapid growth in Iran as Britain’s biggest foreign asset and the building of the city of Abadan for its employees. Abadan was at the time Iran’s fifth largest city and model of a modern industrial city in the Middle East.

The formation of both of these archives follow the fulfillment of the desire for modernity’s universalization or industrial growth. However, they were created with a structural disavowal of the historical situation in which they were made and therefore were interrupted with the change of events the soon followed – in fact both archives became contemporary when they were consumed by the events surrounding them. The Iran section of the BP archive does not go beyond 1951. In 1951 the British oil company had to stop its operations and evacuate its staff as a consequence of the nationalization of the oil industry. With the 1979 Islamic revolution, the museum’s relation with its Western collection too became an unsettling one – and remains so even up to the present. In many ways both archives have provided for a misplaced memory of modernity.

This project does not simply display materials from the two archives, but rather appropriate some of its features into objects and images. In returning to these two archives, the artists seek to retroactively reenact an open-ended and indecisive historiography of modernity.

The works of Nasrin Tabatabai and Bababk Afrassiabi has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Latin America, the United States, the Middle East, and throughout Europe. Their exhibition at MACBA will be our first solo show in Spain but they have been previously part of: The unhomely, in the 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville.

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