Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz

From 17th century Sarmatism, the dominant ideology amongst the Polish nobility, to monobrows in America to the Green movement in present-day Iran, Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz looks at the unlikely shared heritage between Poland and Iran and in particular, the revolutionary potential of crafts and folklore behind the ideological impulses of two key modern moments, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and Poland’s Solidarność in the 1980s, bookends to the two major geopolitical narratives of the recent past, the communist project of the 20th and Islamic modernism in the 21st centuries. 


Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz, has travelled to the following venues:


10th Sharjah Biennial,

UAE. Curated by

Suzanne Cotter, 2011

Kiosk Gallery, Koninklijke

Academie voor Schone

Kunsten, Gent. Curated

by Wim Waelput, 2011-12

Gdańska Galeria Miejska,

Gdańsk. Curated by

Patrycja Ryłko, 2011-12

Karlin Studios, Prague.

Curated by Patrycja

Ryłko, 2012

REDCAT Gallery,

Los Angeles. Curated by

Aram Moshayedi, 2013

Presentation House,

Vancouver. Curated by

Babak Golkar, 2013

"Long Live Long Live! Death to Death to!" hangs outside the heritage house that acted as a venue for Friendship of Nations at the 10th Sharjah Biennial. A phrase coined by Iranian artist Haleh Anvari, Long Live Long Live! Death to Death to! affirms the celebratory gesture and condemns the revenge and rhetorical justice which often undermine true popular revolutions and uprisings. Adjacent to the only Shi’ite mosque in Sharjah, Friendship of Nations acted as the cheerful younger brother to its beautifully indulgent, blue tiled elder sibling across the road. Photo: Elizabeth Rappaport 


Banners offered not only shade but various creolized messages – ephemera, existing slogans, new aphorisms – from the Polish resistance movement and the Iranian revolution: “Help the Militia, Beat Yourself Up!” stitched onto a mehrabas a nod to the sanctuary of mosques in the Middle Eastern unrest, not to mention the Catholic Church during Solidarność, or “Only Solidarity and Patience will secure our victory” translated into Farsi.

An almost mirthful generosity occupied the courtyard of the heritage house in Sharjah: from the first days of installation, local Baluchis, Afghans, and Iraqis would make daily visits, sit down, converse with us or amongst themselves, and seek shade from the scorching sun while sipping orange blossom infused tea and eating dried mulberries. Photo: Alfredo Rubio

Wheat Molla, wheat, cotton, glue, brick, 45 x 35 x 25 cm, 2011, 10th Sharjah Biennale.


The pajak, a pagan Polish tradition celebrating the yearly harvest, attests to the painstaking diligence and delicate nature of the compromise crucial to the Polish precedent of civil disobedience. The pajak, creaolized with Shi’ite and Iranian motifs and materials, much like the banners, returns the favour, as it were, from Poland to Iran.

Solidarność Pająk study 3, thread, ribbons, reed, 2011


Solidarność Pająk study 1, reed, polyester banner, embroider, 42 cm x 55 cm, 2010. “Frieze Art Fair”, London. Photo courtesy of the Third Line. 


Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz (installation view), Kiosk, Gent. Photo: Yana Foque 


Pająk, materials variable, dimensions variable, 2011. Photo: Yana Foque / Kiosk, Ghent 


Continuous Conversations with Janek Simon at Kalin Studio, curated by Patrycja Ryłko, Prague, 2012 


Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz (installation view), REDCAT, Los Angeles. Photo: Scott Groller