Whitechapel Gallery (London)

A Utopian Stage: Festival of Arts, Shiraz – Persepolis (1967-77)

Whitechapel Gallery, London | 21 April  – 4 October 2015
Press release

The ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis were a spectacular backdrop for ‘one of the most adventurous and idiosyncratic festivals in the world’ (Artforum). The Festival of Arts was held around Shiraz, Iran every summer from 1967–1977.

Vali Mahlouji Talks Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

A melting pot of Asian, African and international avant-garde music, theatre and performance, the festival featured artists, including, sitar player Ravi Shankar, shahnai player Bismillah Khan and American composer John Cage, alongside Rwandan drummers and Balinese Gamelan musicians and dancers. Orghast, a play by poet Ted Hughes and Mahin Tajadod, co-directed by Peter Brook, was staged, while Merce Cunningham’s dancers performed calisthenics among the ruins of Persepolis.

The festival was banned after the Iranian revolution and its documents removed from public access, but it is now brought to life through this display of archive film and photographs, original theatre programmes and posters seen for the first time in the UK.