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Subway Surprise, Tehran
November 16, 2011 8:42 AM   Subscribe

"Things didn’t happen as I imagined. On the one hand, with the situation in Tehran, I expected the police to arrest me. I also thought that the resulting dress wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But it turned out to be more homogenous than I envisaged. Most of the passengers wanted to communicate with me and participate in the project. And I enjoyed this attention and collaboration. The point wasn’t their understanding of the project. I didn’t want anything to be imposed on the audience or participants. I wanted ordinary people to encounter their own personalities without any preconceptions about contemporary art. More than anything, I wanted something to emerge that is shared — between me and everyday metro passengers." The story of fashion student Shirin Abedinirad who conceived and carried out an unusual (and unusually bold) performance art experiment by asking Tehran metro passengers to donate their rubbish to pin on her dress.

In less heartwarming news from Tehran, actress Marzieh Vafamehr was initially sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in jail for her performance in a film exploring censorship of artists in Iran (trailer), so it becomes more readily apparent how even such a seemingly light, innocent and charming experiment might require rather exceptional courage on the part of Ms. Abedinirad.

Shirin's subway video is featured on Uncut ("Free Speech on the Frontline"), which currently covers freedom of expression stories and issues in Iran, China, Mexico and Egypt (and which, according to the site, plans to add eight more regional editors over the next two years). "Uncut" is a feature of Index on Censorship, a site that offers news and information on free expression from around the world. "Index on Censorship was founded as a magazine in 1972, when editor Michael Scammell and a group of writers, journalists and artists, led by the British poet Stephen Spender, took to the page in defence of the basic human right of freedom of expression for writers in the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries."
posted by taz (10 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, not a post about the current potential U.S. internet censorship crisis, but something that I hope upholds the spirit of the day, and something I found particularly touching because of the enthusiasm, curiosity, and eager participation displayed by the passengers in the video.
posted by taz at 8:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the spirit of the day, I hope Shirin Abedinirad's good example will live on in me. May I show even half as much courage, kindness, and human feeling in my work today.

Why am I crying? I should be happy that I have no need to fear a sentence of 90 lashes.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was amazing for me just because of the "slice of life" aspect. I think many westerners, especially in the US, would be really surprised to see commuters on a modern subway dressed casually and just enjoying the ride and this project. Due to the slant in our news and the unfortunate political face of Iran (Ahmadinejad and the hardline clerics) I think a lot of people picture something very different from this when they think of life in Tehran.

It also makes me think about the post-9/11 support vigils in Iran and how badly we screwed up the chance to capitalize on that goodwill.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is this where I get to write again again how wonderful Iran and the Iranians are, and what a pity it is that our respective governments are such idiots? I believe change will come to Iran sooner than we think, if Israel doesn't bomb the country first. (When I have those stupid paranoid days, I wonder if maybe there is a secret alliance between hawks in the US, Israel and Iran to keep up the war-talk, so the idiots can stay in their seats rather than be sent where they should go).
If I were younger and less obligated, I'd learn Farsi and spend more time there. Maybe I can do that when I'm older and less obligated.
posted by mumimor at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was amazing for me just because of the "slice of life" aspect. I think many westerners, especially in the US, would be really surprised to see commuters on a modern subway dressed casually and just enjoying the ride and this project. Due to the slant in our news and the unfortunate political face of Iran (Ahmadinejad and the hardline clerics) I think a lot of people picture something very different from this when they think of life in Tehran.

If you just stop your ears every time he talks, Rick Steve's Iran travel special is superb for this.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The end where she explains performance art and what she's trying to achieve in farsi is great. There's just something very ordinary and out of context that I can't put my finger on. And yeah, I love how open Iranians are about discussing politics and important topics in public.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:21 AM on November 16, 2011


The use of lashes in this day and age is really messed up. I kept feeling afraid the basiji would show up and hassle her for the lace in the back tunic.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2011


I spent the evening first seeing Rich Steves version of Iran, and then his version of my own country. Obviously, his audience are young tourists. But given that, he seems very fair to me, and his impression of Iran mirrors my own, with the huge difference that an American TV-personality will not get nearly as free an access to ordinary people as anyone else.
There's something about Iran I find hard to explain. Normally, I cannot stand totalitarian regimes. I worry for Cuba, and Syria is beautiful, but in both countries, the suppression is everywhere, like a thick blanket of poison. In Iran, things are somehow different. Obviously, there is terrible suppression going on. But also, the reason we see experiments like this is that sometimes, the authorities don't seem to notice. Actually, that is the truly terrifying thing: sometimes, you can do whatever. And then sometimes you cant.
posted by mumimor at 1:02 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


[some comments removed; maybe talk about Occupy Wall Street in one of the OWS threads?]
posted by taz at 12:37 AM on November 17, 2011


freecellwizard: This was amazing for me just because of the "slice of life" aspect. I think many westerners, especially in the US, would be really surprised to see commuters on a modern subway dressed casually and just enjoying the ride and this project.

I know it's difficult for people from the US but for anyone else that's interested my other half and I found it a breeze to visit Iran, we spent two weeks this summer in Tehran, Isfahan, Yazd and Shiraz. Our only regret was not being able to stay longer! For extra fun it's worth taking the train from Istanbul to Tehran or Tabriz to see some parts of Turkey you might not otherwise fit into a travel plan.
posted by nfg at 6:45 PM on November 17, 2011


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