Pekka Niskanen Tehran Dark Metal


Photographic Gallery Hippolyte

In his exhibition Tehran Dark Metal, Pekka Niskanen examines Iranian metal music. Simultaneously, it draws a poetic portrait of music as an experience that builds communities and generates identities. Tehran Dark Metal weaves narratives of personal life, reality, and dreams. Above all, it tells a story about belonging to an international heavy metal community while pivoting within a society that is viewed with endemic prejudice and strong preconceptions when explored through a conventional western lens.

Displayed at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte is the documentary film Iranian Metal Coffee, which  follows the daily experiences of the band Dark Matter. Behind the walls of hazy cafes and studios, the film draws a focal point around the lives of two men, Aria Moghaddam and Mehdi 14 Cheriki. The project originated from a casual encounter at a café where Niskanen became interested in the centralised role this kind of space achieves with students, philosophers, and artists. Furthermore, friends and acquaintances of both Moghaddam and 14 Cheriki reflect the breadth and diversity of Iranian society. 

In his artistic work, Niskanen applies modes of community-lead art and dialogical processes. To be further ingrained in the project, he attended frequent rehearsals of Dark Matter’s piece Theory of X in their home and studio, expanded his musical lexicon of trash-metal and goth-metal music in Tehran’s Shahrzad Theatre, and followed the League of Champions football games in the café with members of the band and their friends. All the while, Moghaddam and 14 Cheriki speak candidly about their particular problems and struggles. For Niskanen the place, and situated individuals in the place, produce a performance—he is interested in each distinct performance, and what it strives or manages to convey. 

Duration of the documentary Iranian Metal Coffee is 29 minutes. 

Pekka Niskanen (b. 1961) is a media artist, filmmaker, researcher, and a Doctor of Fine Arts, who has been exhibiting since 1990 in museums, galleries and film festivals, around Europe, North America, and Asia. He has curated several exhibitions, e.g. Helsinki City Art Museum, Ateneum, the Culture Capital exhibition in the Ruhr area (Dortmund, Germany), Nordic Arts Centre, as well as The Finnish Labour Museum Werstas. Niskanen’s works are in numerous collections held by institutions such as Kiasma, Helsinki City Art Museum, Espoo City, Contemporary Arts Centre in Vilnius, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (Amsterdam, Netherlands), and various private collections. In 2012, Yle TV1 showed the documentary film Virtual War, directed by Niskanen, which expounds on the Chechen refugees who fled to Europe from Russia. Can You Hear Me, a video installation depicting Antarctica and Burma, was on display at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte in 2013. Niskanen made the video work Community Terrorists on the terrorist attacks of November 2015 in Paris. In addition, he has written two research articles on Isis’ terrorist acts. During one attack, Niskanen was staying across from the Bataclan Theatre, where terrorists killed 90 people in the establishment and on the adjacent street. Again, in the centre of Strasbourg December 2019, Niskanen escaped an Isis terrorist who killed five people.

The exhibition is kindly supported by AVEK, The Finnish Cultural Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, and Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse. The exhibition is also supported by EMMA—Espoo Museum of Modern Art.


Pekka Niskanen
Tehran Dark Metal
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16

image: AliReza Marjoy, 2019