Iranian curator screams ‘Don’t Bite Me!,’ giving voice to minority

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: International art curator, critic and founder of Blue Rhino Art Consultancy, London-based Iranian Tima Jam highlights inclusivity in art, drawing on diverse artists from Iran, Türkiye, Egypt, the U.K., Serbia, Belgrade, Italy, Albania and Belarus in ‘Don’t Bite Me!’

The world of art fascinates us all, especially Tima Jam, a London-based Iranian curator who strives to give a voice to minority ethnic groups in the art world while providing a sense of belonging and inclusion to homegrown artistic talent.

Within this frame, the “Don’t Bite Me!” exhibition displayed in the Akaretler cultural and artistic hub of Istanbul featured works of different techniques ranging from painting to sculpting.

I had the chance to interview Jam as she narrated the story of “Blue Rhino Art Consultancy” and its inception. “I have always been interested in art, ever since I was a child, and ‘Blue Rhino’ is the product of this life-long interest. Founded in 2016 in Istanbul, Blue Rhino is an international organization that is committed to creating an inclusive environment for global collaboration, generating inspiration for original and unique art, curating diverse artworks, and supporting artists worldwide, regardless of their location, ethnicity, or religion.”

“Blue Rhino Art” is an art residency program that gives artists the chance to create art in different environments, pushing them from their comfort zones. It also provides the opportunity to meet and interact with different artists and cultures, gain a different perspective on their own art and develop as artists.

“We recently brought together a diverse group of 23 international artists from 11 different countries, working across many different styles of painting, sculpture and printing: All creating artworks together in the same studio in Türkiye, over a period of two weeks. Working and socializing in the same space creates a wonderful environment for sharing knowledge, making global connections and developing together as artists,” she added.

According to Jam, the title of the art residency and symposium developed out of a complex and contradictory idea concerning the nature of human relations. “When entering an intimate relationship, we surrender our complete selves. We let down our defenses and expose our most vulnerable aspects to each other. We rely on that other’s love, honesty, and unselfishness. However, of course, the opposite possibility exists as well, that is the risk of being hurt. This residency was centered around an interrogation of tensions and risks inherent in human relationships. As symbolized by the character of the scorpion, ‘Don’t Bite Me!’ (2019) explored the complexities and persistent sense of risk and danger inherent in human relationships. In the 2022 edition of our residency, we focused on more positive aspects of human relationships, what it means and what it takes to put one’s trust so completely in the hands of another, in spite of risks,” she explained.

In the process of artist selection, the platform makes an open call on its website and social media platforms to encourage new artists to participate in that year’s program, as a way of broadening its artist pool in terms of numbers and geographical reach.

“There is an enormous strength in diversity and every year we seek to increase the variety of participating artists: different nationalities, cultures and techniques. The confirmed list of participants is provided once the open call is closed. We are always overwhelmed by the number of applications to the open call and quality of artists. For example, this year we chose 23 artists from over 200 applications, accompanied by difficult processes to ensure we are choosing the most deserving artists,” she said.

Jam defines Istanbul as a place where everything can exist at the same time. “There is harmony in all its chaos and we felt that this magical city would be a great source of inspiration for artists. As an ancient melting pot of diverse peoples and close knit-communities, one can only imagine the myriad of personal history, love, separation, entanglements and tragedies that have taken place here at every corner. While our artists will be working hard in the studio, there will always be opportunities to wander these streets and immerse themselves in this living canvas,” she elaborated.

This event will be an opportunity for participating artists to develop their practice both conceptually and technically while experiencing the historical city of Istanbul, an ancient hub for artistic and cultural exchange. My main expectations for the artists are that they are able to interact with and inspire each other, building relationships and connections which will transcend the period of residency and enrich their art practice for years to come.

According to Jam, the artists have been amazed by the history, culture and artistic expression. “We also organize tours around the city for them to explore and see much more and really get ‘under the skin’ of Turkish culture,” she elaborated.

Blue Rhino also hosts some “Art Talks” offering amateur or aspiring artists the opportunity to meet art professionals, gain unique insights into their processes and learn how to express themselves through art.

“We are working on exhibitions and events in Germany, Hong Kong and the U.K. which we will announce in 2023. And we’ll soon be launching our online art academy, giving everybody access to learn, study and stay up-to-date with developments in art from across the world,” remarked Jam. She said Blue Rhino’s main mission is to introduce the world to ever more talented artists, giving them a unique platform to develop their careers and organize more and better exhibitions.

“Hosting art talks and including everyone who wants to enter the world of art is what gets us out of bed in the morning! We want everyone to enjoy the experience or art as much as we do,” she concluded.

Courtesy: Dailysabah