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