The project excavates the site of the historic urban neighbourhood of the former red-light district of Tehran, the Citadel of Shahr-e No (‘New Town’). The research, which began in 2010, recovers data and material culture, historical documents, artefacts and personal memories to recreate the social and political landscape of the district, contextualising the violence inflicted on Shahr-e No within larger political projects of the era. The research treats both the site and these artefacts as objects of collective trauma that evidence prolonged endurance of violence; artefacts that reveal new knowledge about the present social condition. The research investigates the impact of cultural erasure when it is used as a political tool to reorder society; the project militates against censorship and poses a wider question about the long-term effects of systemic amputations of cultural memory.
Vali Mahlouji is an independent advisor to the British Museum, director of the Kaveh Golestan Estate, a member of Art Dubai Modern Advisory Committee and board member of Bahman Mohassess Estate. He has frequently contributed essays and publications to various institutions, including Guggenheim Museum, LACMA and Asia Society Museum and Yale University Press. He is a frequent guest lecturer at international institutions which have included Goldsmiths University, Central St Martin’s School of Art, Yale University, Stanford University and Courtauld Institute.