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Between 10 November and 10 December 2016 Maria Kapajeva, an artist from Estonia who works and lives in London, undertook a residency at Kooshk Residency, Tehran, Iran. Her residency was supported by Arts Council, England.

During the first two weeks of her residency she was part of The Second Rybon International Artists' Workshop with 9 other Iranian and international artists, organised by Rybon Art Center in collaboration with Kooshk Art Residency and Triangle Network. Roots and Routes: Challenges and Opportunities of Connectivity, was a five day meeting of artist residency representatives, artists, funding bodies and cultural workers held between 20 – 25 November 2016 in Tehran. The meeting has been organised by Res Artis and facilitated by Kooshk Residency in cooperation with Mohsen Gallery.

Find out more about Maria's time at Kooshk in her own words, here.

About Maria Kapajeva
Maria Kapajeva’s multicultural background drives her practice to explore a diverse spectrum of cultural identity and gender issues within historical and contemporary contexts. She deals with political and social issues of the past and questions how they form the present of people, whose stories have been forgotten or are about to disappear. Stories and histories she finds in archival photographs, old family albums or at flea markets often result in video and installation with found objects and original photographs altered using various printing and stitching techniques.

Maria's work has been shown internationally including the shows at One Fest Goa (India/2016), Brighton Photo Fringe (UK/2016), Tartu Art Museum (Estonia/2015), Auckland Photography Festival (New Zealand/2014) and Harn Art Museum (USA/2014). Maria’s dummy book Reading Apocrypha was shortlisted for UNSEEN Dummy Award (Netherlands/2016) and selected for TOP 10 for Dummy Award at Riga Self-Publish (Latvia/2016). Maria often develops her work during various residencies. She was selected for Bridge Guard residency in Slovakia (2014), for FATHOM residency by Four Corners Film in London (2015) and for Narva Art Residency in Estonia (2016). 

About Kooshk Residency
Kooshk residency, established in mid 2014, is a cultural and artistic space in Tehran. Kooshk provides a convenient space for artists, curators, researchers, writers and filmmakers to encourage inter-cultural dialogue and art creation. Kooshk strives to contribute to development of Iranian art and culture through participation in international exchange programs with cultural institutes worldwide.

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Maria Kapajeva's writes about her experiences during her residency:
This workshop gave me the opportunity to meet many local and international artists, with whom we explored the city of Tehran, discussed our work, ideas and helped each other realise these ideas. For most of us it was just the beginning of something new: a new body of work, a new collaboration, a new friendship. It was an opportunity to experiment, to try out things or test new ideas, and, I think, everyone succeeded in them.

It helped me to get to know place and people quicker than if I had been by myself. After the workshop I continued working at the studio for a further two weeks after building on the knowledge I had received in the first part of my stay.

My project found me at a flea market of Tehran, where old photographs and Soviet film posters attracted my attention. I decided to follow the story and find out more about where the film posters came from, and why the seller collected them. For him this was a way to preserve history.

These dusted objects, which did not seem to interest many people at the market, inspired me to research the history of cinemas on the famous Laleh-zar Street - a symbol of Western culture and its celebratory lifestyle. Most of these venues were closed down after the Revolution. I walked around with my camera talking to people and collecting their stories. Along with new found objects these will form part of my new work titled ‘These things are not important’.

I interviewed people around Laleh-zar area and collected photographs and posters from one of its abandoned cinemas, which was about to be sold. The story of one cinema represents a story of the city and its transformation after The Islamic Revolution of 1979. The cinema, which was strongly associated with Western culture, slowly went out of operation due to increasing censorship, and then became replaced by satellite TV.

How censorship affected the lives of people, who used to work at the cinema or were connected with it, is the subject of my new work in Iran. Taking as the starting point traces of the Soviet past I found in Tehran, I am working on the parallels between the two countries’ histories, their censorship and the stories of people whose nostalgia continues to shape their everyday life.