Meghdad Asadi Lari is originally from Shiraz, Iran. He came to the U.S. in 2010 to study 3D animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and has created a choreographic piece that incorporates Persian music and calligraphic art to tell the traditional Persian story of life that deals with the fragility of self-worth. Simorgh is a personal adaptation of “The Conference of the Birds.” It centers around a few birds of different breeds, each representative of a particular human characteristic—ego, greed. The birds are seemingly satisfied with their perceptions of self, but on a chance journey they each embark upon, they find they are stronger as a community and are strengthened by allowing others to complete their true “self.” Here Asadi Lari speaks about this work of animated calligraphy.
What inspired you to do this lovely piece of animation?
After spending two successful years in my MFA studies and producing three award-winning short animations, including being a finalist for my other film in the 2014 Student Academy Awards, I decided to dedicate my skills to my home country and introduce a small portion of its rich culture and literature to the world.
The film is a personal adaptation and interpretation of the 12th-century poem “The Conference of The Birds,” a long Sufi poem of approximately 4,500 lines, written by the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar.
I felt we as human beings always need reminders to let go of our selfishness, become united and find the beauty of selflessness. Having the story in mind and seeing its high potential of being imaginative, I decided to face my fear of dealing with a complex story, step into it, set free my soul and allow my creativity to bloom in any direction that [the] animation world allows me.
What does the narrative mean to you?
Unity and personal purification. You can’t be purified unless you get rid of anything that prevents you from being simple, yet perfect. And that you can’t be sophisticated, unless you let others fill in the gaps within you to complete you.
How difficult was it to learn calligraphy?
I grew up learning calligraphy. Although learning something in childhood has its own difficulties, it forms the mind in much easier way and lasts longer in your self. Besides that, the nature of Farsi language and the way it’s written allows calligraphy to be incorporated into everyday writings as well.
Although I used to take calligraphy classes, I wasn’t looking at them as an art major back then, but rather enjoying how it plays with eyes. Now, several years later during the preproduction stages of making Simorgh, I realized it could be a perfect place to not only leverage the power of animation to do something that is not doable in other mediums of art, but also leverage and push the beauty of calligraphy to play with the eyes in a higher level.
Do you believe this film or other work you’ve done can make the West more appreciative of these letterforms?
Absolutely yes. My main goal was to introduce Iranian arts to the West—the Iranian literature, music, calligraphy art and Persian carpet patterns. Although the style that I developed for my birds was very challenging for me in the production stage and I wasn’t sure whether it would be successful or not, after finishing the film and getting a handful of positive feedback and appreciation, mostly from non-Iranians, I realized that I was successful in directing the eyes to the points that I was aiming for. I was able to introduce the Persian alphabet and calligraphy to people who hadn’t even seen the Farsi alphabet before.
I’m not the first one who has created zoomorphic arts, forming animals with letterforms. However, I believe I’m the first one who took it to the next level and made the letterfoms alive by animating them.
The appreciation of the designs that I got from the world was actually the main motivation for me to come up with the idea of making an e-book that not only includes the original story in both English and Farsi, with lots of animated interactive illustrations … but also shows, in more detail, the process of designing the characters based on calligraphy letterforms.
What’s next for you?
Currently I’m involved in academia as Visiting Assistant Professor teaching what I’ve learned so far. I’m also directing few shorts including one for an award winning scriptwriter. I’m also involved in some educational, interactive projects offering my technical and artistic skills. However, my plan is to continue exploring the rich old Iranian stories, and find possibilities for new creative ideas to bring them to life.
I’m also hoping to open some discussion with some publishers to expand the eBook that I made to an advanced level in hope to attract more attention not only to this beautiful, rich story, but also to introduce this design style and the letterforms to the world even in more details.
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