Barbad Golshiri is an Iranian contemporary artist, born in 1982 in Tehran, Iran. His father was Houshang Golshiri, an Iranian famous writer. He studied painting at The School of Art and Architecture, Azad University, Tehran. He has worked both as a media artist and a critic. He works with video, digital media, installation, photography, the internet, graphic novels and Lettrism.
He won the third prize of the 6th Tehran Contemporary Painting Biennial, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. In the criticism symposium of the biennial, Golshiri's paper was praised as one of the three best articles.
Most of his works are language-based and like other young Iranian artists he has severed his ties with the Iranian modern art movement. The exhibition "Iran.com: Iranian Art Today" in Freiburg's Museum für Neue Kunst (Museum for New Art) and the TREIBSAND DVD Magazine [Volume 01](Analyzing while Waiting (For Time To Pass); contemporary art from Tehran) focus on this generation.
Golshiri has portrayed himself as a critic of the current socio-political situation of Iran. In the Civil War series and in A Memorial for Potassium Suppository, shown in the first biennial of Thessaloniki, the artist attacked Chain murders of Iran. His father was one of the survivors of these murders.
Amiel Grumberg, the curator of "Too Much Pollution to Demonstrate: Soft Guerrillas in Tehran's Contemporary Art Scene - 2004" exhibition writes:
Barbad Golshiri's series of videos, installations, and photography expresses a remarkable balance between foreign art influences and Iranian resonances. Largely based on autobiographical experiences, his work echoes a general desire for change, but a change that excludes the possibility of losing any of the Iranian cultural heritage and way of life. Although the past has not been forgotten by the young generation, they refuse to accept the new rules established after the revolution. In his videopiece "What has befallen us, Barbad?" Golshiri transforms the obligation to cut his long hair before joining the army into a creative and intense moment. When used in neon-boxes, the video stills appear as arabesques, resembling calligraphy..
After showing the work for the second time in New York, critics emphasized the exotic value of his work, finding arabesque motives in his locks of hair. Later for "Beams of Blue" exhibition in New Delhi Golshiri negated this value:
The title, What Has Befallen Us, Barbad?, is taken from a short story by this name written by Houshang Golshiri. In the story, Barbad is a five-year old boy who has witnessed what has been done to his father in the prison of Islamic Republic of Iran. Barbad stops talking and never describes what he has witnessed. Instead of talking, he draws childish but horrifying paintings. My name and my life are taken from this character. The short story itself has a hypotext. In Sassanid period, Khosrow Parviz (the Persian king) had a magnificent horse called Shabdiz. Parviz loved his horse frantically and had said that he will kill any one who brings the news of Shabdiz’s death. Shabdiz dies and no one dares to bring the news to the king. Barbad, The courtier musician, comes and plays so sadly that makes the King ask: “has Shabdiz died?” In my work, Barbad, who is the artist, is mourning what has befallen him and us in a traditional manner. On the other hand, What Has Befallen Us, Barbad? is about Art Praxis: is on my Faustian experience; Selling not just my soul, but also my body. That is why I chose Body Art and I chose myself as the subject of the Praxis. This piece is about exhausting myself with Art, but not for any rewards or exalted goals. It is just because of my addiction; because of the cancer of time: a poor habit. For nothing, if you prefer.
In Apex Art conference Abbas Milani, The Iranian writer who lives in exile, gave a lecture on the video showing no interest in the Stereotyped issues. Milani said:
In mid-eighties, Houshang Golshiri wrote a short story of stunning power. It has much in common with his later masterpiece, King of the Benighted-a book I translated into English. In What Has Befallen Us, Barbad?, the narrator, a woman, talks of her son, named Barbad; a child who has seen the inferno of an Islamic Republic prison and the experience has rendered him mute. He only observes, and paints; the "horror, horror" of what he has seen can not be rendered in words. Only images can help assuage his anger and pain.
Not long after his father's death, his son, the Barbad of the story, and the eternal Barbad of Iranian history, has given us another rendition of his sad tale. Barbad is the troubled muse of Iranian music; he is our tormented Dionysus; he was a master of mirth and melancholy; to Khosrow-Parviz, the ultimate king of Pre-Islamic Iran, he sang of sorrows and victories; when the king's favorite horse, Shabdiz, died, no one dared tell him of his loss. He had threatened to kill any bearer of such message. Barbad cleverly conveyed the bad news through a masterful composition, and when the king was imprisoned by his son--'incidentally a rarity in Iranian history where it is always the fathers that kill their sons-the grieved Barbad burned his musical instruments, and cut off his own playing fingers lest he be tempted to make music again.Our Barbad takes a different path. He surely gives of himself, but not to kill his art, but to create it. This time, it is the patriarchs who are killing their children and imprisoning their souls, and the sons, defiant and self-assured, angry but not despondent, ask again, What Has Befallen us, Barbad?
The video begins with an empty white space, a tabula rasa, a canvas. Defiantly, and briskly, a head of hair, as much of Bob Marley as of Barbad, as likely of a woman as a man, appears. There is no face, but only the menace of a scissor, and a pair of hands, clad in white. Hair, we know, is a much contested part of human anatomy in Islamic societies. In man, and even more so in woman, it is a potential tool of the devil. In woman, the first now eminently liberal President of the Islamic Republic told us, it is charged with erotic electricity. It can ensnare the hapless men around it. In man, too, it can be a sign of frivolity. Morality police roam the cities searching for men with long hairs, and for women with any evident hair. And Barbad, reversing the Samson myth, where hair was a sign and guarantor of his power, has turned the hair into the ultimate metaphor for all that has happened to art and humanity in Iran. But this is no mere lament against oppression. It is also a call to action; an act of creation. Not just of his soul, but even of his body the androgynous figure of these powerful images is willing to give. There is in the gestures of the hand and the head, defiance, anger, and sacrifice. In Kubrick's memorable beginning of Full Metal Jacket, young marines are being shorn of their hair, and of their identity, so that the foul-mouthed sergeant can make of them a killing machine. Here however, the sheering is voluntary, and from it comes the redemption of art. The scissor at times comes close to cutting not just the hair, but the hand--making art in Iran can be a dangerous proposition. Guerrillas, even if soft, are the enemies of state. There is also moments of apparent resignation, where the head seems to want to escape the ordeal, but a force, mysterious but powerful, keeps it in its place.
And by the end of the process, as the hand at times angrily, other times with decided deliberation, throws away the hair, the once empty canvas has become an eerily and powerfully resonant image, full of characters--there stands a hint of a cloud, and here the apparition of Simorgh, the wise bird of Iranian mythology. It is painting by "hair-drip," it is, to borrow Nietzsche's words, creating art by blood. Read in the context of Iran, it is a cry against oppression, censorship and brutality; read in a global semiotics, it is a defiant manifesto for the necessity of creating art, of communicating with the world at any price. Barbad is at once Persian and global.
Barbad Golshiri's critical approach along with presenting the obscene in his works has compelled the artist to exhibit most of his works outside Iran. This could be one of the reasons why he has been participating mostly in international exhibitions.