Postmodern Spirituality: Creative Expressions in Today's Iranian-American Art

Presented at MESA 2006 Conference, Boston, MA
Hengameh Fouladvand, Executive Director, Center for Iranian Modern Arts

Non-materialist philosophies have often been a thought-provoking theme for many visual artists. From theosophical mysticism of early 20th century abstract art to today's postmodern spirituality a variety of mediums and styles express the search for the state of oneness with the ultimate reality. Scientifically it is very difficult to characterize the interrelations between the inner world and the outer world.
The Quranic concept of "Donia-e zor va misagh" suggests a prior knowledge of things in a state of consciousness where upon every thing has a name, and "kalama" is known. Recent advances in neuroscience indicate that the body's organization of stimuli occurs prior to the reception of the stimuli, and if the body does not actively seek to appropriate and rearrange the physiological substrata for its own desired patterns of conscious activity, this consciousness can never occur. Many neuroscientists today believe that realization plays an active, "pragmatic" part in information processing. Traditionally, realization is seen as a process caused by stimulation of the nervous system by data in the brain. The more recent theories do not see it as a physical byproduct. The response to visual images for instance does not appear to be caused by the stimulus. It appears that we become conscious of ourselves or of an image only as a result of a prior suggestion and a question originating by the midbrain area, which is the focus of our emotional and motivational activities. The response must occur first, before a stimulus is caused and then an afferent signal is acted upon to produce a stimulus.
Iranian-American Seyed Alavi revives what many creative artists wished to tackle earlier: attending to other abstract, spiritual and mystical functions of the human psyche. Seyed's art is nourished by an immersion into Persian poetry and other spiritual texts. His work is informed by the concept of 'unity of Being'. Texts and the effect of "word" lead to overlapping of senses, and higher perceptual planes. A state of mind that deals with the inner knowledge and goes beyond information and reason becomes an essential agent for creative expressions in Seyed's work. Thus all things are seen interconnected and reality becomes a system of interrelatedness. This presentation will examine the various themes and nuances of Seyed Alavi's creative expressions, bonding the metaphysical aspects with the physical.