One of the most poignant responses to the perpetual condition of being in exile is credited to Jonas Mekas, the legendary Godfather of American Avant-garde cinema, when he was asked, “Where are you from?” he offered, “I was born and raised in Lithuania, I live in New York, and now my country is culture.” Although the critical issue of how artists respond to the ongoing crises and challenges of the constant pressure to assimilate to their immediate and new environment has been with us since the beginning of time, it has become increasingly acute and urgent in regard to mass migration, especially from the Middle East and Africa. Ali Banisadr is one exemplar of this feat, following many of his fellow artists from a generation earlier, including Nicky Nodjoumi, Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari, Y.Z. Kami, among others. Banisadr left Iran at the tail end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, moving first to Turkey, then to the U.S. where he participated in the Mission School of graffiti in San Francisco, and attended SVA (School of Visual Arts) for his BFA, before earning an MFA from New York Academy of Art while also performing as a DJ in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Above all else, Banisadr is a devoted student of art history and the culture of painting specifically. On the occasion of the artist’s first solo exhibition in Germany, Banisadr paid a visit to the Rail HQ for a long conversation with Phong Bui, Rail Publisher, about his life and work.
Image: Ali Banisadr, Language of the Birds, 2018
Oil on linen, 66 x 88 inches
© Ali Banisadr