Georg Schatz

Transnational Student Collaboration

 Hosein Ghafouri, Iran & Georg Schatz, Germany at Digital Art Space



"It looks like you are in an embargoed country."



When it turned out, that our first plan, a cooperation with the Wuhan Art Academy in China, could not be realized because of the Corona Virus, we had to find new partners. I remembered that lately the Iranian artist Hosein Ghafouri had sent me a request if he could post one of my works on his Instagram account. I have to mention, that my work is hardly present in the internet but he had found me.

May 26th 2020 I contacted Hosein Ghafouri, being aware that I didn´t know anything about him except having a superficial impression of his work. But I knew that I was looking for a partner from “another culture” and for a certain degree of unfamiliarity. At that time I also considered to work together with a Danish artist. I knew, that we would have been on the same wavelength, but I decided for the contrast and to accept the challenge. Hosein returned immediately: "Yes, please give me more information, I would like to work in the international art movement as well."

We had set up a project space on Slack in order to document the progress and communication within all teams transparently. On May 29th 2020 Hosein sent me a screenshot with a sad emoji in form of the slack logo saying, “It looks like you´re in an embargoed country.” So, due to the international embargo of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hosein and I couldn’t work together on this platform. Communication via email occurred to be not viable as well – our entire communication had to run via WhatsApp.

On June 20th 2020 we were able to set up our first video meeting. It was Tadh, Hosein’s studio mate who called. Hosein was sitting in the back and did hardly speak a word. I was taken in confidence, that there was a language problem. Hosein can write messages, but has difficulties to speak English. But, for our project he started to take English lessons. The quality of transmission was bad, still I got an impression of the shared studio with a dusty garden and chirping crickets in a hot Teheran night. I could see, that it was a place of ambitious art production. Conversely, Hosein got to see my family, my apartment and a panning shot out of the window on shiny cars in a Munich street. The contrast was there – cooperation could start.


At the very beginning Hosein and I came across an inherent problem – in which scope would we generally want to cooperate with one another? It became apparent that one piece of art, in which the individual contribution was not visible any more, was neither practical nor desired by both of us. We found that we both more or less represent the idea of the artist as a lone wolf with a primarily subjective position.

In June 2020 our joint work started. Hosein proposed the term "shelter" to be our subject. At the beginning I was not so much convinced and wanted to develop our theme more jointly. Later I realized that shelter is a recurring motive in Hosein’s work since years, as a reference to his upcoming in the antique city of Yazd and its architecture (UNESCO World Heritage). Hosein immediately started to work and sent me a video with promising results. He had built several small size shelters out of wire and paper. These objects were light and flexible, so that, as shown on the video, he could step on them and kick them and still be able to bring them back into their former shape.

But I still had a problem to get involved with the subject. It became apparent, that it would come to the form of two separate positions in respect to our common subject “shelter”. I was still trying to find a relevant artistic reply. During this phase it must have been frustrating to work with me. I decelerated and we lost time – "I guess this is a cancellation...", Hosein texted on September 18th 2020.

On September 19th Hosein sent several drawings in order to restart the process. He tried to push our cooperation but things didn´t come together for both of us. We still needed time to get a feeling and find our positions within this project. Two days later I formulated three general approaches how we could combine our parts. Things became a bit clearer but we hadn´t found a specific form yet.

November 3rd 2020: Hosein wrote, that he had changed his concept, planning to create a video-performance in the catacombs of the antique city of Yazd. That was the turning point. It gave me inspiration and I have found my starting point. I decided to build another shelter, that was totally different to the honeycomb like shelters in Yazd. My shelter should be mobile and temporary, protecting from cold and snow instead from heat and sun – a tent made from discarded fur coats.

In the following month we worked together productively. Our communication became amicable and spontaneous. We exchanged ideas and thoughts and also discussed political issues. At some point we also reached limits in our conversation. At the end it was possible to produce an artwork together without meeting physically.

Then I had to find a way to transfer the shipping costs. Due to the embargo I had to hand over cash to an Iranian friend in Munich so that he could organize a money transfer inside Iran through his family. Finally, on January 20th 2021 a parcel from Teheran arrived containing Hosein’s artworks.

February 18th 2020 Hosein sent me his video data via a download link. March 20th, our cooperation has not come to an end yet. There are still a lot of things to do. I have to finalize my tent. We have to organize the exhibitions and produce the catalogue. I am looking forward to install our work in the gallery and hope see Hosein in June in Munich. Our experience shows that it is possible to overcome boundaries, but it is necessary to use creativity to engage with the difficulties. At the end it is simply about realizing. It is always the same point in art, to act and react on what is happening, overcome problems and finally just doing it?

Social, political, religious circumstances as well as language and culture have impact on art in many ways. Even regionally prevailing lightning conditions may influence the use of color. We must not forget the artists’ personalities.

In his work Hosein Ghafouri is referring directly to the place he was born, taking the motive shelter. This kind of „initial inspiration“ is an emotional and visual source. It would be a loss if it gradually disappeared in a globalized art world. On the other hand there is always an expectation that comes along with the knowledge of the origin. Testing myself – would I bring Hosein’s work in context with Iran, without having background information?

Concerning the fundamental question “What are the differences in the perception and production of contemporary art?“ I note, that it is not possible to find an answer – it is only possible to experience individually.

For this project, I had reached out for Hosein Ghafouri from Iran, but actually he was connected with global art. I think he has been seeing our cooperation as a chance. Social media and the possibilities within the worldwide web have an important role therein. Without it, many artists would not have the chance to connect. On my decent questioning about differences in the perception and production of contemporary art I had the feeling, that Hosein almost reacted annoyed.



How the idea for this project first came to my mind, I can only say that it started from a strong sense of need. Safety and health was a need that I felt in my heart at that time, and it still is, and this project, along with the sense of security, gave me, enabled me to express it. Maybe this power of artistic expression made me feel safe.

This statement was made by building shelters that made security a relative matter, assuming that no place or object could guarantee all aspects of security.

At the time of the Corona outbreak, the house was the safest place, but at the same time, there were whispers of war in Iran, and this made me feel threatened because the house is not resistant to bombs and bullets, so the house, which I had considered as a safe environment, could be my grave.

Safety has nothing to do with geography, which means that wherever you are, you should know that you are never completely safe, and this is what happens in my shelters. Some are fire resistant but can break, some are water and shock resistant and even revivable but can catch fire easily.

This project shows exactly how confused I was at that particular time.



With his work, Hosein is telling me a story. His story was almost told, when I found the right words to respond. It took its time but we started communicating in the language of art and another story was told. My shelter is made out of worn-out fur coats which had been used as status symbols. Now nobody wants them anymore – it is not political correct to wear them and they are not a good investment anymore. I can afford to use them to build a shelter for the cold German winter. I bought them cheaper than canvas. A tent is not built for evermore, it can be blown away but it is flexible and it is still a shelter.

My shelter refers to nature and deals with relationship between man and animal. I can sleep in my tent in a forest, because tents and furs are built for the wilderness.

Things change.