Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Exhumed: Deliberating R.M Khomeini


Lecture and text by Rahat Kurd
Curators: Hank Bull and Sadira Rodrigues


The first solo exhibition of work by Vancouver based artist, Mo Sa’lemy focuses on the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution from 1977 till his death in June 1989. Using images taken from magazines, newspapers, the television and other media, the exhibition explores the reasons for the persistence of his presence. Even his death, more than a decade ago, has not diffused the symbolic efficacy of his image. Today images of Khomeini remain printed and painted onto walls, flags, banners, magazines, billboards, newspapers and t-shirts. Khomeini’s status as a cultural icon has been secured, not only by repetitive reproduction of his image, but perhaps more importantly today, by the growing focus on Islamic Fundamentalism. The popularity of his image is rivaled only by that of Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin and Che Guevara.

Refusing orthodoxies of left and right, to take a clear position for or against, blurring the line between reality and fiction, documentation and fantasy, Sa’lemy plays with the concept of an ‘official’ state-sponsored exhibition. In doing so, he opens a space for debate on the subject of Khomeini, something that has remained conspicuously absent. The context of this exhibition is the anniversary of September 11, 2001, amid a global political climate in which Islam has been metastasized into the West’s new Orient, a repository for collective Western anxieties.

Mo Sa’lemy was born in Iran in 1965. He lives and works in Vancouver.