Pekka Niskanen Tehran Dark Metal 9.8.–1.9.2019

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. 

To be 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 dark art philosophy and heavy metal band such as Finnish Swallow the Sun, Swedish Katatonia, and most of all about English Daniel Cavanagh and Anathema. Niskanen learnt more about Finnish heavy metal music from 14 Cheriki—together they listened to Tenhi, Children of Bodom, and Insomnium. Iranian Metal Coffee documentary film is made in collaboration with Dark Matter Band. 

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.


Iranian Metal Coffee, 2019
one channel documentary film
duration 29’ 58”

The film is done in collaboration with Dark Matter Band:
Aria Moghaddam, Mehdi 14 Cheriki & Arash Babakan

Sound Design: Juuso Oksala
Second Camera: AliReza Marjoy


Theory of X
Written by Dark Matter
Performed by Dark Matter & Andi Rohde (GER)

Earthless Child
Written by Dark Matter
Performed by Dark Matter, Luís Fazendeiro (PT), Anaé (FR) & Niko Panagopoulos (US)

Except Love
Written by Dark Matter
Performed by Dark Matter, Daniel Cavanagh (UK) & Fab Regmann (UK)

Hannan Theme
Written by Mehdi 14 Cheriki
Performed by Mehdi 14 Cheriki

Written by Mehdi 14 Cheriki
Performed by Mehdi 14 Cheriki & Maziar 14 Cheriki

In media
Helsingin Sanomat
Helsingin Sanomat
Suomen kuvalehti


Discussion with artist Pekka Niskanen and journalist Liisa Liimatainen
Night of the Arts 15.8.2019 at 19–20
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte

Welcome to join the conversation on the Night of the Arts when artist Pekka Niskanen and investigative journalist Liisa Liimatainen exchange their thoughts on the current political and cultural situation in Iran. The discussion will be held in relation to Pekka Niskanen’s exhibition Tehran Dark Metal and Liisa Jokinen’s numerous travels, experiences and writings about Iran.

Filmmaker Pekka Niskanen’s latest documentary film Iranian Metal Coffee (2019) examines Iranian heavy metal music culture, but also the personal lives, reality, and dreams of the band members portrayed in the film while pivoting within a society that is viewed with endemic prejudice and strong preconceptions when explored through a conventional western lens. In her work, fiction writer Liisa Liimatainen focuses on international politics. Since 1997, Liimatainen has been following the situation in Iran.

The event will be held in Finnish. Pekka Niskanen’s exhibition Tehran Dark metal is on view at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte from 9.8. to 1.9.2019. Liisa Liimatainen’s book Iran: huntu ja haaste – yritys ymmärtää Iranin yhteiskuntaa (Iran: veil and challenge – an attempt to understant the Iranian society) was published in 2009 (Like) and Iran: vihreän liikkeen digitaalinen vallankumous (Iran: the digital revolution of the green movement) in 2010 (Suomen rauhanpuolustajat).


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

image: AliReza Marjoy, 2019