Archive for December, 2009

People Get Ready: Iran demonstrations, December 2009

War In Tehran Streets on Ashura

Unidentified protestor, Tehran, December 2009

After several months of bubbling under, turmoil has once again exploded in Iran this weekend, with at least fifteen people killed, including the nephew of Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, in demonstrations in support of governmental reform there. I’ll leave it to more diligent and erudite observers to compile and analyze the events as they happen but I did want to note again that the web is the place to be for the most up-to-the minute information about this weekend’s happenings. Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic has been liveblogging since Saturday nightfletcher christiansen at dailykos.com has a great roundup of news and links: the Daily Nite Owl has also been liveblogging here. And if you’re twittering, #iranelection is the hashmark to follow, with oxfordgirl also livetweeting.

youtube also has much video shot on the streets: I’ve included just one that seems particularly telling.

At 3.49 it apparently shows a member of the Basij, Iran’s paramilitary police force, removing his helmet and holding it aloft, to the cheers and cries of the crowd.

Defecting Basiji carried by the crowd, Tehran, December 27, 2009

Another photo shows a Basiji in a green scarf being carried above a crowd, arms outstretched.

Several observers including Sullivan suggest that the basiji are defecting, taking the side of the demonstrators and renouncing their support for the government. To me this seems like a very significant development. If the regime is beginning to lose the support of the military and no longer has the muscle to back up its repression, it can’t last very long.  Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe—no one can tell if the tide has turned in Iran, but at this moment it’s still possible to wish for the Iranian people to free themselves and to gain some measure of self-determination. Here’s hoping the new decade brings them positive and momentous change.

UPDATE: Further discussion here on Sullivan’s blog re: possible Basiji defections. Readers seem to think that nothing conclusive is proven by the images. Great discussion all around.

December 28, 2009 at 7:40 am Leave a comment

We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang: One Day: A Collective Narrative Of Tehran

Tehran, Undated, 2009, Merhan Mohajer, C-print, 27.25″H x 27.25″W

Just got back from Intersection for the Arts, where I saw One Day: A Collective Narrative of Tehran, a brilliant group show organized by Iranian American, San Francisco-based Taraneh Hemami, and Ghazaleh Hedayat, an artist living in Iran. Taraneh is a visual artist and curator whose past work includes several projects dealing with her experiences as a diasporic Iranian woman.

Taraneh’s been creating a lot of work that utilizes images downloaded from the web, such as her mixed-media piece Women In Tehran (2007), in which she threaded together small cut-out pictures of downloaded images of women from the Iranian capital city. Her larger 2007 installation, Most Wanted, included a beaded curtain that replicated a poster of fugitive Islamic terrorists that she found on-line, its fuzzy and indistinct images suggesting a culturalist compositing of all Muslims into an overarcing mashup of  conflated identity.

Most Wanted, 2007, Taraneh Hemami, 87,000 6 mm faceted beads, string, pole

Her use of internet-based images reflects her own status as an exile far from her homeland as well as the ways in which diasporic peoples now retain contact with their countries of origin, through websites, social networks and other virtual spaces. By utilizing web-based imagery Tareneh’s work also mirrors the significant role that the internet played in this year’s presidential elections in Iran, during which opposition leaders and activists as well as everyday Iranian citizens communicated their concerns and bypassed the censorship of traditional media outlets through the use of twitter, facebook, youtube, and other net-based media. Without such social-networking sites the Iranian government would likely have been able to completely obfuscate reportage of the protests and demonstrations that took place in the days following the elections.

Find The Lost One, 2007, Neva Razavipour, two-channel video installation

The current show at Intersection builds on some of these concerns in a complex and elegant presentation. The pieces work individually and as a unit, showcasing the mundanities of life in Tehran as well as the heightened tensions now present following the disputed presidential elections. Several of the projects also take on new meaning and significance after the elections and the crackdowns that followed it. Neva Razavipour’s two-channel video installation, Find The Lost One (2007), projects the same image twice, side by side, of passengers exiting a train station in Tehran. With one exception the projections are identical—-Razavipour has digitally erased one of the figures leaving the station. Text running at the bottom of the projection challenges the viewer to “find the lost one” in the right-hand image. As the artist’s statement notes, the piece was created in 2007, but following last summer’s elections the installation has now become a canny commentary on the increased repression of oppositional voices in Tehran.

 

One Day: A Collective Narrative of Tehran, installation view, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco

Taxiography, Ghazaleh Heyadat’s processed-based pen-and-ink sketches, also take on additional resonance following the June 2009 elections. Each day Heyadat made a drawing by allowing her pen’s gyrations to trace a line based on the bumping and swaying of the bus or train she was riding through Tehran, with each small sketch reflecting the routes Heyadat followed in her sojourns across the sprawling city. Originally created as a means of passing time on Heyadat’s lengthy commute on Tehran’s public transit system, in the wake of last year’s crackdowns the drawings can also be read as records of the furtive travels of fugitive activists seeking refuge from the Basij and other military personnel.

Yekrooz (One Day), 2009, Taraneh Hemami, neon

Taraneh Hemami also has a couple pieces in the show, including Yekrooz, a green neon sign that spells out “one day” in Persian, and Turning Green, a large laser-cut green wool rug that traces a street map of Tehran. The rug’s central placement on the gallery’s floor unifies the exhibit while referencing Mir Hossein Mousavi’s oppositional Green Movement.  It’s also a sly pun on Iran’s more Western-friendly name, Persia, and the ubiquitous carpets of the same name, reflecting the still-fraught relationship between Iran and U.S.

Interestingly enough, of the eight pieces included in the exhibition, only two were physically shipped from Iran. The rest were conceived in Iran, but fabricated in the U.S., from computer files and design plans sent over the web or email. Not only did this strategy save on freight but it also allowed the artists to circumvent censorship of their work by the Iranian government.

Not unlike the role that twitter et al played following the disputed elections, once again the web has aided Iranians in speaking out and voicing their concerns, despite their government’s best efforts to suppress them, and such dauntless determination speaks volumes about the urgent relevancy of this show. The risks that these artists take hopefully will make us here in the U.S. appreciate the casual ease with which we can tweet about our latest DVD purchases, what we had for lunch, or who we support for dogcatcher. With diligence we won’t let net neutrality and other civil rights erode in the U.S., and they’ll remain a given here as they are not in Iran.

One Day: A Collective Narrative of Tehran

Wed, Nov 4 – Sat, Jan 23, 2010 | 12pm – 5pm | FREE

Gallery closed December 20, 2009 – January 4, 2010

Sat. Jan. 16, 7 pm: Artists Talk

Intersection For The Arts

446 Valencia Street

San Francisco, CA 94103-3415
(415) 626-2787

December 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment


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