Rumi, whose 800 year-old poems are, coincidentally, the most widely read throughout the United States, remains deeply revered within all strata of Iranian society. His teaching of humanity as Heech, or nothingness, is most prominently conveyed through the work of contemporary Iranian artist and sculptor Parviz Tanavoli.
Tanavoli’s sculpture, Poet Turning into Heech, which depicts the body of a man turning into a poet, is the centerpiece of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection of contemporary Iranian art in New York.
Like the word Heech, which is written in Farsi script, the flexibility embodied by Tanavoli’s Poet melds elegantly with its environment. “Artists, to me, are also poets,” Tanavoli told me. “The Poet is a man who feels everything, senses everything but cannot change anything. It is now the poet who determines philosophy, makes a statement and criticizes the structures of our societies... and tries to reflect it in his artwork."
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