The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination was organised by SOAS at the Brunei Gallery in London. This project represents the first major exhibition in living memory to provide a visual narrative of the history of Zoroastrianism from its ancient Iranian roots, to its emergence as the foremost religion of the Achaemenid and Parthian empires and its consolidation as the state religion under the Sasanians.
The exhibition consisted of a series of 10 stories in visually articulated yet openly flowing spaces, which sensitively employed the controlled variation of light, sound and colour, as well as several unique architectural features - an overall historical narrative to explore the ways in which Zoroastrianism has been received and imagined through art, iconography and literature of non-Zoroastrians down the ages.
The gallery's integral features presented unique challenges, not only for orientation, continuity and flow, but also due to the inherent height and footprint limitations. However, following extensive examination of various solutions, an approach was defined that provided each floor with its own identity and atmosphere.
The entrance level proffered an introduction and geographic orientation within an environment of refined restful colours, providing suitable reverence to this little understood religion. With minimal construction intervention, the space was configured to enhance the storyline as well as flow. It was also enriched by the enlarged facsimiles of ancient Gatha texts, which were poetically recited within a rotund, bathed by a shaft of spiritual light. The combined use of subtle graphical reproduction, sound and the specific location of displays clearly encouraged movement within the space and also the creation of vistas within a relatively small footprint.
While the lower level demonstrated a continued reverence, it was designed to be far more dynamic and to portray the adaption of the religion in worship, art and day to day life. In order to accomplish this substantial architectural features were introduced; a reproduction ‘Fire Temple’ to present to non-Zoroastrians the mysticism of daily rituals, and a 12 metre glass engraving of a staircase of Persepolis, which due to budgetary constraints were both constructed in India and assembled in London, with engineered support mechanisms made in the UK - a fraught and miraculous endeavour.
The third of the three floors was dedicated to more generalised information related to the diaspora and the interpretation of Zoroastrianism theology in contemporary art form.
Due to the outstanding publicised success of this exhibition and the significance of visitor numbers and interest, consultation has commenced for a further world tour.