Your past might sometimes come quickly to walk with you, with no introduction. According to Proust, who had been searching the lost time, “past does not escape, it remains.” * Talking of Proust and Roshdi makes me remember the hidden smile behind Mr. Sahabi’s thick mustache, or maybe it was his memory which brought the names of those authors in my mind.
Once, it was 1999 I guess, I had a show at Aria Gallery, in Valiasr Street, upper than Beheshti. Those days, the ministry of Islamic Guidance that was directly auditing all the works for each exhibition, did not license any of my works. The problem was the visibility of some body curves. I talked to the gallery owner, Aria Eghbal, and thought well! I censor the works with papers and hold the exhibition. So, I cut the news out of the newspapers and sticked them on the hands and feet of my works’ characters with paper tape. That was how the exhibition went on, and the visitors could only see a series of works censored with paper tapes, and were mostly busy reading the newspapers. On the second day, Aria informed me that they (the ministry) had objected the newspapers sticked on body parts (well! the news was related to the late 90s in Iran), so we removed the newspapers quickly and replaced them with the exhibition invitation cards.
Mr Sahabi had informed us of coming to see the exhibition one night. I was excited! Mehdi Sahabi walked down the stairs and I was excitedly counting every step he took. When he stood in front of me, happiness and pride sat across my face in form of a smile.
- Hello Simin jaan! I heard you rocked!
- Hello Mr. Sahabi! Thanks for coming! Honestly, we were so afraid they might close the gallery that we did not even make it too crowded.
- Showing these tapes and newspapers on your works has already made noises.
Mehdi Sahabi, with his tall height and thick mustaches and coke-bottle glasses stood in the middle of one of the two halls which had no wall in between, folded his arms on his chest, turned his head, and looked carefully at all the paper tapes on the works. We talked a bit about the reason I made such decision, and together with Zoya (the gallery secretary), we showed him one of the uncensored works that we had put in the store. Seeing the work or not seeing that, he turned to me:
- Look, Simin! You are doing your work and this is so great, but… (he paused for a long time).. what is important here for me as a viewer in this exhibition, is how you approached the audition of your work. Look! Creativity is not always summed up in the work we put in front of the viewer, or the story we write for the reader… (and continued giving some examples)
Later, I repeatedly quoted the same complete or incomplete sentence of him in my classes.
*In Search of Lost Time/ The Guermantes Way/ Marcel Proust, Mehdi Sahabi