The director of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoca) was fired earlier this month after an artist performing in the institution's rotunda almost fell into a metal container beneath filled with oil. Yaser Khaseb was swinging above Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi’s Matter and Mind (1977) installation in a harness when his body hit the surface, causing a spillage.
According to the Tehran Times, the deputy culture minister for artistic affairs, Mahmud Salari, announced that Ebadorreza Eslami-Kulai would subsequently replace Ehsan Aqai as museum director. The museum posted a statement on Instagram, saying that “during this event, part of the performer’s body hit the oil, causing some oil to spill, which is replaceable”. TMoca did not respond to a request for comment.
The aerial performance by Khaseb, entitled Cat of the Silk Road, was part of the opening programme for an exhibition, Panj Ganj, commemorating the 12th-century Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi. On Instagram, Khaseb posted a film showing the moment he splashes into the pool of oil, suspended from a rope hanging from the ceiling. A man standing by the pool swings Khaseb backwards, resulting in the artist plunging into the oil container. Khaseb writes on Instagram that “a work of art can be reborn in contact with other works… from the interaction between two works, a new work can be produced.”
A version of the oil work by Haraguchi was installed at the Iranian museum in 1977 after the original piece, known as Oil pool, was shown at the sixth edition of Documenta in Kassel, Germany, the same year. In 2017, Haraguchi was invited to TMoca to restore the installation; the artist died in 2020.