A Media Artist's Response To Failing Diplomacy

When BriAnna Olson's pacifist views were confronted by an adamant American couple, she decided to heed their challenge and head to Tehran-- the epicenter of the Axis of Evil nation.

Amongst a landscape of failed diplomacy and media smear campaigns, she and fellow artist Michael Pope found a society far more alive and hospitable than they'd ever been led to believe.

Like jesters of a modern-day Magellan, they've returned with stories and insights to a culture few American's have seen first hand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Biennial Tehran // Berlin, Germany

(pictured: Dario Fariello, Italian performance artist adds to Polish cellist KOSTJA PICUNDA 84 's aural offerings)

I had the opportunity to be a resident artist @ Taktkunstprojektraum in Berlin while Biennial Tehran opened in select venues across the city. Both the residency and the exhibition proved to be legendary international creative ventures that will be forever carved into my own personal timeline... Beyond that, as far as this project is concerned, it was crucial for me to interact with Iranian artists away from the rules of an Islamic society.

@ Biennial Tehran, I met up with the curator, who I'd also visited while in Tehran. Our second encounter was decidedly more relaxed. Artists from Iran, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Australia, Serbia, Poland and other environs descended on Berlin in an unquestionably celebratory tone. It almost felt like a reunion of people who hadn't met yet. I had a piece in the show that needed particular curatorial attention and I was especially pleased at the way it was displayed, re: the lighting tricks required for the full effect of the ink variations. My opening was on Day 3 @ Wallywoods and that night has definitely made my Top Ten life experiences list. (Re: Wallywoods: "This underground artspace, freshly relocated to a derelict GDR "Kulturhaus" in Berlin Weissensee is the closest thing to Warhol's Factory to be found in the city. Its director, British artist Paul Woods, heads about 150 maladjusted unrecognized local talents.") The atmosphere was charged as people poured in from the streets to see Iranian bands play and drink and smoke without repercussion.

The other Biennial events, held at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, West Germany and Ich Orya, also hosted musicians, 2D, and audio/visual installations/performances. Their next station is Belgrade and I'm already looking at flights to Serbia-- meeting Iranian artists out of their element is almost as rewarding as meeting them in Tehran.

@ the Takt residency I was able to screen my "Sign at Ground Zero" piece (along with showing a handful of other digital works) to a very receptive and interactive audience at their Open Studios. My colleagues hailed from the US, UK, Canada, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Italy and Serbia.

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