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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Media in Tehran // PressTV and George Galloway

Because we don't speak Farsi/Persian and we were in a hotel (read: no satellite) we only had two English options for news. One of those options was Iranian run PressTV. I was super impressed by the speaking skills and level of consciousness that one particular newsman offered (though I watched him for probably less than 2 hours total). I'd never heard of him, but George Galloway is apparently quite famous. A member of British parliament who had many call-in fans from around the Middle East (check out his Facebook fan page to get an idea of his fanbase) as it turns out, he was also involved in the UN Oil-for-Food scandal (YouTube testimony below) and US pundits have their own opinion about him.

(This wasn't a clip I saw, but the date it was uploaded is closest to when we were in Tehran.)

(hit permalink just below for more videos)

Believe it or not, it did totally surprise me to find out that some politicians in the US House of Representatives wanted to brand PressTV a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist' (SDGT) organizations (House resolution 1308). It seems pretty out of line, considering what I was seeing. PressTV even has a story about it here.

(This is what I found when I got back to New York and googled this guy.)

....click here for full article/permalink.

Colors of Tehran

In case you were under the impression that the colors of Iran were dusty brown and standard-issue army green, check outs some photos that Michael took-- colooooors! (more if you click it....!) (above: Vahid Sharifian piece)

(above: Iranian toilet cleaner!)

(above: Standard practice of Iranian plumbers, ad stickers on doors-- locksmiths in Brooklyn do something like this)

(above: exhibition at the Tehran MOCA)

(above: big windowed bodega)

....click here for full article/permalink.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tehran Avenue One-Shot Film Festival // Watch & Vote

From the website:

"TehranAvenue One-Shot Film Festival (TAFF) is a practical suggestion: To speak in a visual language that doesn't appeal to technological crutches and digital wizardry. This approach to the "image" attaches itself to simplicity. It doesn't need an editing table. The prerequisite is for the image-makers to acknowledge that image is just another form of inscription, like writing, which was once the domain of the learned. Many today have access to recording equipments, which have become the pen and paper of our world. The movie theater is no longer the only place where images circulate. As a friend put it, the number of recorded images far exceeds the number of bricks used in buildings. Another words, our world is an alloy of images. The power to make them is in the hands of a majority and yet those that dominate our visual field are made by a few advertising firms, which are control freaks, which leave nothing to accident, which only want to sell. Our public space is pockmarked by manufactured images that, much like billboards, are becoming more luminous by the day. They tell us what and how to be. We must break the monopoly of fashioned images, otherwise we wouldn't know what Saddam said and what his executioners said before the noose tightened. TAFF is a practical suggestion."

Signup to download the videos and vote for the winners.
Quicktime users will need to download the xvid codec, then install in Library/Quicktime/ folder. (Follow the readme file, I had to create the Quicktime folder) Also! Mac users! Use Safari, not Firefox... for some reason the download doesn't work with Firefox.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Deviant Artists // Online

Above, Cinema in Iran by samoshaver

I just did an interview with Global Voices (!) and was mentioning how an interesting side-effect of government control (as it pertains to exhibition spaces and galleries) is that it has forced Iranian artists to take their voices onto a global platform (the internets).

Head on over to deviant art to see an example of Iranian artists participating in an international social network.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unconditional Love on The Daily Show

Matthew Alexander puts "Unconditional Love is Global Security" to work when interrogating terrorists and combatants in Iraq, and insists its the most effective at getting answers. Establishing a rapport? Making jokes? Being human? Hmmhmm.
His book is "How to Break a Terrorist".

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Scholar Day in Iran - تجمع روز دانشجو در دانشگاه تهران

Iranian Students Protest Dictatorship and Gender Apartheid

Two days ago, Sat. December 6, was the 55th anniversary of the killing of 3 students at University of Tehran.

In honor of the anniversary, between 3000-4000 students (according to this blogger) rallied to protest dictatorship and demand equal rights for both men and women. Oh, snap.

Read more at Global Voices.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Zionism // Part... oh, jez, again?

It's official. I've decided that one can't discuss the 'Islamic Republic of Iran'... that is, Modern Iran, without giving equal attention to Israel. Iran, a Muslim country, was a collective response to the founding of Israel... a Jewish country.

This article came across my desktop today, and it was hard to ignore.

This post makes a great companion piece to this one I did a couple days ago.


The Roots of Christian Zionism Part I, The Cause of the Conflict
Charles E. Carlson Dec 08, 2008

America’s war based economy depends on Christians’ support
Christian Zionists, by whatever name, are the primary public enablers of serial wars upon Islamic states. Why? Because they have been conditioned to think of Islam as an anathema to them, much as many of us were trained to consider communists our ideological enemies a generation ago. Most Christian celebrity media leaders have allowed themselves to be used as propagandists against Islamic states with independent governments, including Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, and in the future, Islamic states of Iran and Sudan. Our purpose is to examine why and how this has been done, why it is wrong and what can be done to correct it.

The Christian Right’s world war on Islam was observed as early as 1983, and became official in 1991 with the first destruction on Iraq. Only Christian Zionists (known by many names) believe war is an inevitable part of their religion, so they do little to resist it. Due to this un-Christ like error, they have become the primary cause of our conflict, a conflict that has become perpetual.

Christian Zionists, by whatever name, are the only remaining faction of any size that supports the war in Iraq. Therefore, they are largely responsible for the economic and social disaster, and due to the distortion of their own faith, they are the seeds of their own destruction. We find them among our friends, families and associates. This is a problem because we can not just turn our back on Christian Zionists, despise them, and call them fools; they are among our best friends, bosses, even our wife or children, so we need to learn to deal with them. In their formidable numbers we find them our best hope for the positive change from the warmaking state.

Endless wars always have, and always will result in the destruction of both the morality and the currency of the aggressor and are historically destructive to religious freedom. High priced gasoline and food can be accurately laid at the feet of those few industrialists and politicians who see war in their own interest. They deceive Christian Zionists, making them enablers, believing that war is necessary to their faith. Judeo-Christians can be easily swayed to support conflict, so long as a Muslim is on the receiving end of our bombs and bullets, and so long as the state of Israel is perceived to benefit from it.

I am in no way excusing cowardly Congressmen for knuckling under to the war lobby. We know some few gain a lot financially from war, and work for it. But these professional Warmakers are far too mercenary to believe that a God controls their eternal destiny. I also do not dismiss the influence of Jewish Zionists, who consider war in the Middle East in their national interest. But for every Jewish Zionist in America there are ten or twenty Christian Zionists doing the work of the former.

It is my belief, as a follower of Jesus Christ, that Christians who turn from Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, and love your brother…even your enemies, as you love yourself”…these “Christians” deserve the hottest places in hell, as Dante put it. For if those who claim they follow Christ fail to stand for justice and protection of the innocent, who will?

Change can only come from understanding the Roots of Christian Zionism. To this end it is urgent that all Americans of all religions understand why Christian Zionists believe what they do. Those who try to follow Christ need to rescue decent souls to more orthodox Christianity, one by one.

Most Christian Zionists don’t know they are Zionists and might deny it. They usually describe themselves as Evangelicals, Dispensationalists, pre-Millennialists, or a “Born Again Christian.” Very few are comfortable with the radical elements of Christian Zionism if they stop to think about it, but they do not. Their church is to most, a comfortable social outlet, especially for their families, and a society that they desire. Their societal links are much better defined than the theological ones which most do not understand and can not recite.

Restoring the walk to Jesus’ Way can save America.

If Christian Zionism can be correctly exposed as a warring religion, America may be restored to peace, justice, and at least to some of the prosperity which we have lost. Many of us are all beginning to suffer economic distress as a result of the very wars Christian Zionists have supported, supposedly because these wars please God and are necessary for Jesus’ return to earth.

At the apex of the Christian Zionist sect (which is only 100 years old) are leaders who include media personalities such as John Hagee, Rod Parsley, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and hundreds more. Each has openly expressed the view that war upon Islamic states is necessary and welcome. Currently, most of these call for America’s next planned serial war against Iran. Sudan is also on the war agenda.

Dispensational bible students can be found in almost any church of any denomination because of the effectiveness of radio churches and giant international bible studies in homes and churches that transcends denominational descriptions. For instance, some Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans are Christian Zionists because of their outside Bible studies and are ignoring the contradictions to orthodox Christianity espoused by their own church. In this sense, Christian Zionism is a disease or a parasite upon orthodox or traditional Christianity.

The sixty-four dollar question is how do you identify a Christian Zionist, and how do you know if you are one? We have developed a 10 word litmus test that is non-invasive and usually welcome, so you can ask any churchgoer without hurting his feelings or starting an argument: "Do you believe the state of Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophesy?"

Tens of millions of Americans need to face this question, for if they believe Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophesies, then where does Jesus fit in? Simply stated, either Jesus or Israel is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, but there is not room in Christianity for both. If you have been taught that political Israel is in any way involved in your spiritual life, you are infected!

Orthodox or traditional Christians have always believed that Jesus, not Israel is the correct answer. Only Christian Zionism (by definition) assumes that political Israel is in God’s plan for the future, and that in spite of its intolerance, racism, and constant wars, political Israel is the chosen people of God.

Today about one-third of the 210 million American adults who identity themselves in polls and census as Christians, are influenced by Christian Zionism. That is about 70 million, most of whom vote, making Christian Zionists the most powerful and coveted voting block in the world, as can be clearly seen during an election year, translating into some 26 million votes! This means they are much coveted by every political candidate.

The most obvious example was John McCain’s reckless pursuit of Christian Right support that had led him to gross embarrassment at the pulpit of both maniacal Zionists, John Hagee and Rod Parsley, both of whom call for nuclear destruction of Iran.

The teachings of Jesus Christ inescapably demand peace and love of one’s neighbors. This has been America’s one badge of righteousness. In the mid-19th Century, America’s churches led the cry for peace in a world where wars were all too common. It was later, at the turn of the 20th Century that Christian Zionism first took root.

The French author Alexis deTocqueville wrote of churches while he traveled here in the first third of the 19th Century. He sang the praises of America’s invulnerable strength and spirit which he attributed to our citizens sense of morality, and even to the abundant church attendance he observed in America, which of course he would not find in his native France.

DeTocqueville wrote: “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” He could not know that the churches he saw as the source of conscience were under a moral attack aimed at the very sense of justice he observed within them.

War seeds immorality
The first attack on the churches came with the War Between the States in 1861-65, which scarred the sense of justice and morality and diminished and divided churches as only a brutal war can. The terrible slaughter called the War Between the States taught moral Christian men about mass killing. But it did not change their New Testament Bible; it simply allowed men to ignore it.

The most powerful theological attack on Christianity came from Oxford University Press in England, which in 1908 published a false and intentionally misleading reference Bible called the Scofield Reference Bible aimed at creating a new religion, with the future state of Israel a semi-God in it. The term “dispensationalism” was taken from Scofield’s book, and is an assault on orthodox Christianity. Oxford did not just publish the book; it promoted it into the key places of study in America where opinion could be molded to cloud the peacemaking tradition of Christianity.

Most pastors and teachers were unaware of any danger. A few foresaw the consequences of the heresy that to most seemed foolish, outlandish, and embarrassing. Few guessed it would come to dominate American Christianity when in 1948 the State of Israel came into existence.

This new religion that chose the friendly pseudonym “evangelicalism” is the topic of our discussion. Religion scholars on both sides often identified it as “Dispensationalism” or “Pre-millennialism,” and “Judeo-Christianity” which are popular synonyms. We will presently explain some of these changes in detail, but first I want to show you how world-Zionism sold its stepchild to Christians.

The World Zionist movement was in full charge toward occupying Arab Palestine by 1913. It was given a huge financial and promotional boost through Oxford University Press in England, which to the amazement of Biblical scholars published a new bible of Christian Zionism in 1908 called the Scofield Reference Bible. This book would be used as the launching pad for a methodical and spiritually deceptive growth of the new sect. Its leading was to be subtly used to help lure America into two unnecessary world wars.

Not all mainline Christians were asleep.

One of the few who saw the warmaking and heretical danger of the new sect, and actually called it “Zionism” was a well-known attorney, Phillip Mauro, turned scholar, who wrote a brilliant critique of the new cult in his 1927 book, Gospel of the Kingdom. Mauro wrote:

“Through a recent occurrence I was made aware of the extent- far greater than I had imagined – to which the modern system of dispensationalism has found acceptance amongst orthodox Christians; and also the extent- correspondingly great- to which the recently published “Scofield Bible” (which is the main vehicle of the new system of doctrine referred to) has usurped the place of authority that belongs to God’s Bible alone.”

Mauro went on:
“Let it be understood at the outset that my controversy is solely with the doctrine itself and not at all with those who hold and teach it, or any of them. Indeed I was myself of their number for so long a time that I can but feel a tender consideration and a profound sympathy likewise, for all such.”

Phillip Mauro has been an encouragement to your writer, and to all those who support We Hold These Truths. He was a dedicated scholar with an engineer’s logic, and a lawyer’s tenacity that allowed him to foresee errors in 1927, that many like myself took five decades to recognize.

This writer must admit and echo Mauro’s confession; for I, too, was “of their number” and like Mauro, I share “profound sympathy” for those caught up in dispensationalism. As his words suggest, we are not fighting Christian Zionists; we are trying to reclaim them.

Dr. F. Furman Kearley was another who saw the path to war in the errors of dispensationalism. He was head of graduate studies at Adeline Christian University in 1983 when he wrote of Christian Zionism’s evil fruit of perpetual war in the Middle East. His short book, The Middle East Crisis in Biblical Perspective, takes sharp issue with those he calls Israel First Millennialists. He names radical prophet Hal Lindsay, and the late Jerry Falwell, whom he said would lead us into endless war with Islamic states.

Kearley noted: “When the concept of Armageddon, as in Revelation 16:16 is raised, those who believe in a literal war at Armageddon often feel that Christians should work to start this war, and should vigorously participate in it. Those in particular who view this present situation as Armageddon…believe that Christians should support Israel with vigor and urge our government to take an active part in the conflict in the Middle East.”

Kearley saw Christian Zionist’s support of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine as a precursor to more war in the Middle East. He concludes:
“One needs to be absolutely certain that the doctrine he follows is God’s and not of men before he advocates a doctrine that would put the blood of other men on our hands.”

Dr. F. Furman Kearley explains the neo-Christians’ love affair with war as a religious fixation, correctly stating: “Christians must (as a matter faith) pray for peace in the Middle East. Premillenialists must pray and work for World War III, so Armageddon will come. They cannot pray for peace.”

If a follower of Christian Zionism would only examine the simple teaching of Jesus in the New Testament he will find not a single passage or phrase that would give a follower of Christ cause to take the life of another man, or another man’s child. Certainly we must not kill a man’s wife in a far away country. No such permission exists.-End Part I

In Part II: We examine the bitter fruit of Christian Zionist's error...how followers of Christ were detoured to accept a false and anti-Jesus doctrine of Christian Zionism that leads to the death of millions in the name of Christianity.

The Roots of Christian Zionism DVD (this is the beginning of the audio part) is a documented and sometimes dramatic one hour movie written by Chuck Carlson and edited by Tom Compton. It can be purchased from We Hold These Truths website Bookstore, and is ideal to be shown to concerned audiences of all faiths. http://eshop.cp.whtt.org/eshop.php?id=22

....click here for full article/permalink.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Iranians' = Pro-American

When Michael and I introduced ourselves as Americans in Iran (which was always, by the way, we never even considered claiming we were Canadian), we were always embraced with a sincere love and admiration. We were taken a back... in fact, we started to go out of our way to let people know we were from New York because we knew that people would light up and open up far faster than if we were from, say, Australia. "We love Americans", we'd hear often. Way different than traveling through the Czech Republic, where it was almost impossible to avoid being lectured on the incompetence of George Bush.


The following was lifted straight from here, check out bibijon's page on Iran's Image:

Middle East is dotted with anti-American populations led by unstable but friendly governments. The exception is Iran, with a pro-American population governed by a stable regime openly critical of American self-defeating policies in the region. Although, on cooperating with U.S. efforts against al-Qaida, there was little daylight between Iranians and their government.

Based on surveys taken in Iran in early 2008 by WorldPublicOpinion.org and Terror Free Tomorrow:

“While Iranians, like many other Muslim populations, have negative opinions of the U.S. government and U.S. foreign policy, they have a mildly positive image of the American people, and believe "common ground" can be found between the two societies. Most Iranians desire closer ties with the U.S., including more trade, investment and tourism.”

The jaundiced opinion of U.S. policies, however, is not an affliction exclusive to 'Muslim populations'. For example, as Cathy Young, the contributing editor of the Reason magazine, puts it: “A staggering 43 percent of Russians agreed in a poll last year that “one of the goals of the foreign policy of the United States is the total destruction of Russia.””


The New York Times: The Best of Enemies? By Thomas L. Friedman, Jun 12, 2002

Quick quiz: Which Muslim Middle East country held spontaneous candlelight vigils in sympathy with Americans after Sept. 11? Kuwait? No. Saudi Arabia? No. Iran? Yes. You got it! You win a free trip to Iran. And if you come you'll discover not only a Muslim country where many people were sincerely sympathetic to America after Sept. 11, but a country where so many people on the street are now talking about -- and hoping for -- a reopening of relations with America that the ruling hard-liners had to take the unprecedented step two weeks ago of making it illegal for anyone to speak about it in public.


International Herald Tribune: Many in Iran bear the U.S. no ill will by Michael Slackman, Feb 11, 2008

America’s image in the Middle East is arguably as low as it has ever been. From the occupation of Iraq to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon to the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the United States has been cited in polls as the gravest threat to peace in the region. But Iran is different, even the Iran of bearded fundamentalists …

Generally speaking, Iranians like Americans, not just American products, which remain very popular, but Americans. While that is not entirely new - Iranians on an individual level have long expressed desires to restore relations between the two countries - the sentiment seems much more out in the open now.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Huffington Post, the sponsor of this video, is banned in Iran.

Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost on Vimeo.

Read the full article here.

From the video @ 4:45 "The one who forces Israel into a peace treaty with the Arabs is the one who is.. you've got to watch out for." The interviewers says "is the Beast" and they agree.

And @ 6:24 “Another reason that we support Israel is that we have a common enemy, the Muslims. We are fighting what is behind the Muslim people, which is Satan. Satan is actually the one who is trying to destroy the human race.”

....click here for full article/permalink.

Mainstreamedia // CNN

From CNN:
Israeli Web site advises using wisdom of Quran

Quranet is here. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Israel/US article by Robert Weitzel

The US relationship with Israel is fundamental in understanding the US relationship with Iran.

The foundations of modern Iran (1979) were built upon self-identification- Muslims standing up for Muslims, an opponent to recently established Jewish Israel (1948) and its lifeline, the United States of America. The rallying cry of Khomeini was in support of Arab Muslims, Palestinians, who were, in his words: "...oppressed by the Israelites".

Israel’s Settlement on Capital Hill
by Robert Weitzel

Soon after the sand settled following the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish settlements began dotting the hills in the occupied territories. These settlements are typically located on the high ground to better control the surrounding landscape. Today there are 127 Jewish settlements with a population exceeding 468,000 in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and in the suburbs of East Jerusalem—the last of nearly 8,000 settlers were removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, “In the first six months of 2008 Israel has expanded settlements in the West Bank/East Jerusalem at a faster rate than in the previous seven years.”

Unbeknownst to most Americans, Israel’s westernmost settlement is not located in Palestine-Israel, but is 6000 miles away on the high ground overlooking Foggy Bottom in Washington D.C.

This Capital Hill settlement of pro-Israel lobbies and think tanks strategically controls the high ground overlooking the United States’ Middle East policy landscape by having made kibbutzniks of most members of the executive and legislative branches of the government—including President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden (a wannabe Zionist), and future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (a born Zionist).

While Israel’s hilltop settlements in the occupied territories—violating over 30 UN Security Council resolutions since 1968—are “facts on the ground” that make the two state peace solution unlikely, their hilltop settlement in the center of the world’s only superpower makes it equally unlikely that Israel’s right-wing government will feel compelled to end their “self defensive” brutalization of the Palestinian people, which has been condemned by the international community (UN, EU) as crimes against humanity.

John Holmes, UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that Israel’s blockade of vital supplies to the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket attacks “amounts to collective punishment and is contrary to international humanitarian law.”

Collective punishment is forbidden by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states, “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.” A “protected person” is someone who is under the control of an “Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.” Only the most ideologically blinkered individual would fail to recognize the Gaza Strip as occupied territory.

Israel’s current blockade of Gaza, which began on November 4, is resulting in what the UN Relief and Works Agency is calling a humanitarian catastrophe. Before the blockade, 1000 truckloads of food, fuel and essential supplies per day were necessary to sustain the 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned behind the concrete and barbed wire of the 25-mile long border. Eighty percent of Gazans live on two dollars a day and depend on international aid to survive. Since the border crossings were sealed, less than 100 truckloads have been permitted through.

The imprisoned Palestinians—50 percent of whom are younger than 15—are slowly starving. They lack the fuel to generate electricity for lighting, water purification, and sewage treatment. The erratic, intermittent electrical power puts the lives of patients in intensive care wards and those who are connected to live-sustaining equipment in grave peril. The lack of basic medicines such as antibiotics and insulin pose an equally fatal threat.

Twenty human rights organizations and all Israeli and international journalists have been barred from entering the Gaza Strip since the blockade began. A letter of protest signed by most major news organizations was sent to Prime Minister Olmert. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror responded to the letter by saying that Israel was afraid journalists would inflate the Palestinians’ suffering. No one is allow to speak out on behalf of this beleaguered population.

President-elect Obama has been speaking out “swiftly and boldly” about the economic catastrophe threatening our 401Ks, but his silence regarding the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe threatening the lives of Palestinians is both deafening and telling of the price he’s willing to pay to maintain his status as kibbutznik-in-good-standing in Israel’s westernmost hilltop settlement.

Obama’s unconditional support for Israel’s policy of “self defense,” preemptive attacks, and repressive occupations is not one iota different from that of George W. Bush, an internationally recognized war criminal. This is not an encouraging beginning for a man whose battle cry was “change we can believe in.”

By any rational, humanitarian standard, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians amounts to collective punishment and crimes against humanity. Perpetrators of such crimes, whether they are individuals or governments or willing allies, are criminals who should one day sit in the dock of the International Court of Justice in The Hague—just as defendants sat in a Nuremberg court 60 years ago—and be held accountable for their crimes.

Until Israel’s hilltop settlement in our nation’s capital is dismantled, allowing for the possibility of a just and lasting peace in Palestine-Israel, its influence on both branches of our government and its insidious affect on US Middle East policy will continue to make willing—or unwitting—kibbutzniks of all Americans. We will be held as complicit, and as culpable, as the citizens of the country whose leaders sat in the dock at Nuremberg.

The world will ask, “Why didn’t you do something to stop it?” The majority of us will reply, “We didn’t know!”


People and the Land:

....click here for full article/permalink.

U.S. Protest Group points to Media Seeding

World Can't Wait, an aggressive U.S. protest organization (that focuses largely on George Bush and his administration), has sent out a bulletin encouraging readers to contact editors of various U.S. newspapers in response to their assertions that Iran already has a nuclear weapons program. (In the article, they are explicitly referring to a 'weapons' program, rather than an energy program). Theisen compares this to drumming up support for the Iraq War by seeding papers with implications of Iraq WMD's.

From the bulletin:

Challenge the Renewed Bush Regime Lies About Iran! Follow Ken Theisen's example:
12-05-08 From Ken Theisen, World Can't Wait Steering Committee:

This article in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle which originated with the Baltimore Sun. It appears it was in many papers across the country under different titles but with the same content. The article asserts as fact that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and goes on to detail how Obama may deal with it. I think we need to counter this article and others like it. I am relatively sure this story was planted by the Bush regime. It is similar to the propaganda put out prior to the Iraq invasion. It reminds me of the Judy Miller stories in the NY TIMES.

I have written the letter below to the Chronicle in the hope that they print it. (It is 199 words long.) I am also going to write a letter to their ombudsman to raise the same point and hopefully get him to do a piece on it. If people in other cities that have papers that printed this article want, they can use my letter as a sample to write their own letters. Ken Theisen

Dear Editor:

Please consider publishing this letter to the editor.

"There is no credible evidence that Iran currently has a nuclear weapons program. Despite this, the article "A Visit to White House can't even hint of enormity of job" (12/04/08) basically assert that Iran has such a program. The article states that Obama intends to halt Iran's nuclear weapon program. The author further says Iran is "rushing headlong toward building" a nuclear arsenal. He also refers to Iran's race to build a nuclear arsenal." Where did the author obtain these "facts?"

Both the Bush regime's own National Intelligence Estimate and numerous reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency contradict the above assertions. The "news" article makes no mention of these facts.

Prior to the Iraq invasion, numerous media stories appeared with propaganda from the Bush regime about the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam. Judy Miller of the New York Times often scooped other reporters with the "details" of Iran's [Ed. He may mean "Iraq's"] non-existent weapons programs. It turned out that her scoops were based on leaks from the Bush administration in it attempts to mislead the public. Is this happening again, but now with Iran the intended target? If so, why is the media going along with this deception?"

....click here for full article/permalink.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Forgive Mumbai attackers

Those of ye understanding the philosophy that is encapsulated by "Unconditional Love is Global Security" can surely appreciate the CNN daily headline in my inbox this morning:

Forgive Mumbai attackers, victims' relative says

You can read the article here.

....click here for full article/permalink.

US Congresswomen request meeting with Iran's female parliament members

I wish I would have read about this on CNN, NYTimes, or Washington Post... Reuters? but I didn't.

From PressTV:

Iran parliament: Time to talk to US
Dec. 01, 6:42pm

The Iranian Majlis (parliament) says the time has come for the Islamic Republic to engage in dialogue with lawmakers in the United States.

Iran's Majlis Speaker, Ali Larijani, told reporters on Monday that the parliament is mulling over the letters received from members of the US Congress and Senate, who had put forward a request for initiating parliamentary dialogue between the two countries.

Earlier in November, Hossein Taqavi, a member of the Majlis National Security Commission, said "US congresswomen have requested a meeting with female members of Iran's Majlis."

Iran had also made public another official US request for talks between American congressmen and Iranian parliamentarians.

While attending the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in October, Iranian lawmakers reportedly received a letter from US officials in Washington, asking for a meeting.

"Majlis is currently studying the letter and we think that the time has come to hold talks between the two countries," Larijani said on Monday.

Washington-Tehran relations were cut in the aftermath of US embassy takeover in Tehran in 1980.

The two countries broke a 27-year diplomatic freeze in May 2007 during Iraq security talks and have so far held three rounds of negotiations on an ambassadorial level over the issue.

Under President George W. Bush, the US has pursued a carrot-and-stick policy toward Tehran over its nuclear program.

US President-elect Barack Obama, however, has vowed to engage Tehran in direct diplomacy in order to resolve the country's nuclear dispute.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has on many occasions expressed willingness to hold talks with US officials.

Earlier in 2006, the Iranian president wrote an 18-page letter to President Bush that touched on religious values, history and international relations. The letter was widely viewed as a offer extended to the United States for dialogue.


p.s. LADIES! would love to see this happen. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Team Obama // Security

If you're keeping up with the news, Obama has selected his National Security team...

From Jerusalem Post Editorial:

"The appointments sent a message that was, by and large, reassuring. Clinton is a trusted "brand" in Israel. Gates and Jones are pragmatists who must know that allowing Iran to go nuclear would be debacle of colossal proportions. Moreover, Jones knows first-hand the distance between Tel Aviv and the West Bank. And Rice understands the importance of Israel as a Jewish state. Her UN role will position her as a central player in stopping Iran." 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Photos // Biennial Tehran in Berlin

In honor of the Biennial's closing events, enjoy yourself some photos from the opening.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Fundraising // Paypal = terrible

I. Me. BriAnna just lost $360 thanks to Ebay/Paypal and that is totally NOT cool. I sold my phone to help pay for my trip to Berlin for Biennial Tehran. It sold on Ebay, money was delivered to my paypal account, and I went to Berlin. Then, as it turns out, the buyer claimed account fraud and the money was returned to him BUT HE ALSO KEPT THE PHONE. ugh. According to NoPaypal.com, this is quite common (the first post I saw had the same story). I have proof that this guy knew what he was doing, but Paypal won't listen and says I'm unqualified for protection. Then there is no human being at Paypal to actually talk to. And apparently they outsource their customer service halfway around the world.

That said, being also executor of the Iran projects account, I am obligated to suspend fundraising activities until instituting a new transaction system (I'm carefully looking in to Merchant Inc.) But please do check back soon and consider donating/buying a tshirt to help offset the thousands of $$ I've spent to make this project happen.

I'm back to the starving artist status that I thought I'd escaped- collecting pennies from the couch cushions, again. =)

Ok. Enough kvetching... back to superawesome things.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sex Changes

During the Q&A at our 1st "Show & Tell" our friend Mika asked about our experience with transgendered folk in Iran. We had none, but we had to assume they were there... probably hiding. I told her I'd look into it, and indeed I did. It turns out that they were not hiding at all, and Iran is second only to Thailand in sex change operations. The logic there is that being gay is a sin, but switching genders is a legitimate way to correct that... the state helps to pay for operations.

Though I've only seen clips, Be Like Others is a documentary that enters the world of transgendered Iranians and their families-- it had its world premiere at Sundance this year. Woo! Media. Totally amazing.
Check out the films website for more videos.

p.s. Happy Birthday, Mika!

....click here for full article/permalink.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

YouTube // Score!

I've just found this video on YouTube and it makes a grrreat companion to Sign at Ground Zero (the impetus for this project). By showing from someone else's point of view, it really helps put the day/video in context. You can even see some of the same people in both videos!! Go internet!

(also, someone's pix here.) 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Beautiful Things // Iran Darroudi

Luminary Iran Darroudi
(Thanks to iranian.com for inspiring the post!)-- click through her paintings here. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Mainstreamedia // NYTimes

A friend of mine sent this to me today. An article in New York Times about Iranian artists and the new market door that is Dubai, UAE.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Iran's Culture Cops // Short Documentary

Kouross Esmaeli is a New York filmmaker who has contributed a few doc pieces to Current TV's repertoire. His 'Tomato Unrest in Iran' was my first media experience of everyday Iranians.

This one, Iran's Culture Cops, seems refreshingly transparent as he was granted unheard of access to the group on the condition that he not manipulate their words.

I bet their words and intentions, if not actions, probably resonate with a number of people- and the insight this video brings is beyond compare. Nice one, Kouross.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

blogging bloggers bloggingly blogged

I hate to be too terribly meta, but I thought it'd be worth mentioning that this blog got a shout out from Global Voices blog, via the Pars Arts blog. See? Upon further investigation, I've decided that Global Voices rocks. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

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. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

ParsArts.com - Feature!

Head on over to ParsArts.com to read the article!

....click here for full article/permalink.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the Reviews are in...

It seems that our presentation @ Cloud Club, Boston was verrry well received despite our lofty goal of covering an epic week in only a few hours. I just wanted to share some of that feedback- !

"I personally found the underground / progressive scene in Tehran to be of particular interest - fascinating that you guys were able to find it and gain access the way you did. And really valuable for Americans to see Iranian civilians as culturally alive and separate from their government, some pockets of them subverting the norms of their society. The presentation itself was unpretentious, yes, and refreshingly open-hearted, without self-conscious analysis / deconstruction or pomo irony chic that remains so pervasive in artistic circles. Also valuable is giving people the space to process information individually; we (westerners, Americans) are perpetually told what to think about the world and ourselves by the media. But I think what's actually important / universal transcends that sort of grasping."

"I have hugenormous respect and admiration for what you are doing and think it makes great art AND entertainment AND education AND fun hooray!"

"Well I think one thing you had going for you is the sort of unpretentious and unassuming way you've gone into this whole thing. Keep it simple. There was just something I liked about the whole idea of this cool, smart, attractive young American lady going to Iran and coming back to Boston to tell all of her freaky drunko cross-dressing artist friends what she saw. That's the way these things should be done, IMHO. There's too much "expert analysis" and political spin on everything you hear about the Middle East these days."

Loves it. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hypernova // Music Video

Indie-Rock phenoms Hypernova, whom I met in NYC fresh off the boat from Iran, have released their first music video. They've come far since playing in the basements of Tehran, and if you're quick you could catch them as they finish up their US tour with Sisters of Mercy. HypernovaMusic.com

....click here for full article/permalink.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Unconditional Love Shirts // REISSUE

Back, by popular demand.
And as seen on TV! (BBC, really)
Unconditional Love Tshirts on American Apparel heather tri-blend.

Pre-orders by November 28 // $23
AFTER November 28 // $28

------> Click here to get to the order page.


....click here for full article/permalink.

Picture Show // Boston

Despite growing up in Illinois and now living in New York, going to Boston still feels like home. This project was conceived at boston art/space Cloud Club (where Michael and I lived/met) and the 9/11 video screened first at sister art/space Pan 9. So, it was a no brainer that our first Picture Show should be to our favorite hometown crowd @ Cloud Club.

It was a super fantabulous FULL HOUSE.

The night opened with funnyman Mehran Khaghani then croooooner Lands took us through intermission. We found out that we have waaay too much to say for one evening. eeesh.

public video selections from the evening:

Waiting for Azad // Iranian Artists Forum from brianna olson on Vimeo.

Mellat Park // Northern Tehran from brianna olson on Vimeo.

Guts // Pariyoush in Tehran from brianna olson on Vimeo. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life Goes on in Tehran - October Feature

A little something I wrote up about our trip was featured in Life Goes on in Tehran. Head over there to check it out .

Also, bonus points if you find Michael in one of the photos. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pariyoush Ganji

Pariyoush Ganji is a internationally renowned painter, lecturer and instructor at Tehran University.

Meeting her was the highlight of the trip, and this moment, even more so than holding up "Unconditional Love is Global Security" at Azadi Monument, represented the fulfillment of the hopes I had for this project.

She welcomed us into her home and studio and I told her the story of my path to her house-- from "Sign at Ground Zero" to landing in Tehran two years later. She lauded me and the concept enough to make me blush. "Guts" she says, "You've got real guts" and goes on to discuss her concern that my generation and the generations after me have no philosophy and as a result, no spark behind their actions or art. It's clear that I've made an impression on her and she gave me temporary license to sing my own praises, which felt cathartic-- all the while with Michael at my side. He gushes when he tells the story and describes the whole experience as the passing of a torch.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Prohibited information, connections

This must be one of the more frustrating consequences of the Iranian government. 
No Facebook. 
No MySpace. 
No Craigslist.
No YouTube.
(New York Times is available, Huffington Post is not)

Blogger is definitely allowed and utilized by Iranians. 
Apparently, they have a super high number of bloggers. 

I was able to update my facebook status and post blogs via email. I love technology.  

....click here for full article/permalink.

Vahid Sharifian = Persian Andy Warhol


Vahid is a legacy in his own mind and all the curators are catching on.
Michael and I had a chance to hang with him at his show (see Day 5) and at his studio (with Ali Ettehad, see Day 8).

Google him for his 'Waiting for Jeff Koons' and 'Bush Distance Family' pieces.

On our last day, Michael shot a video portrait of him, which I can't wait to see.

The background on his PC's desktop was an amazing reminder of the power of the image and the internet. Americans!

....click here for full article/permalink.

Hijab, scarves, modesty, oppression

"Hijab" is the name for modest dress-- I've been using the term to mean 'headscarf' but thats incorrect. Because a few verses of the Quran calls for it, and Iran is an Islamic Republic, a woman must cover her head and hide her figure in Iran. Only her hands, feet, and face can be seen. (Score one for foot fetishists). Standard is the manteau (jacket) very similar to any H&M, Anne Taylor, or whathaveyou spring jacket. It is usual to see muted colors-- tan, black, navy. There is also the chador-- (literally: tent) a giant piece of fabric, usually black, which is sort of like a cape. Women will wear either a manteau, a chador, or both.

Variation is found in head coverings-- but never once did I see a woman with her face covered.

There is a clear narrative in the covering of my head over the course of the trip. I had already purchased my robe and headpiece in the Islamic part of Brooklyn. The (muslim) guy who worked there clearly knew nothing about Iran- he told Michael that he needed to buy a long robe (long robes are a Sunni Muslim thing, Iran is a Shiite country).

When I first got there, the whole thing was a novelty, but over the course of the first day I began to feel terribly unhappy. It was only a few women that made me the most uncomfortable-- the ones in all black, looking me up and down, not even cracking a smile. I had posed as a Muslim but not acted like one. My body language was slightly open, my camera was in my hands, I was casually strolling through the bazaar. This was my first experience of how a society polices itself- if I were Iranian and had to deal with this daily, my spirit would be bruised a bit and I would likely start avoiding eye contact and keep my gaze down... eventually I'd be so bitter that I'd start scowling at anyone I thought was enjoying life more than me. And the cycle continues...

Fortunately, I understand that the key to letting the world know that I'm not Iranian (therefore shouldn't be judged by the same rules) is a different outfit. I start with a shiny scarf. Continue with a lush, pearl one. And finish with a new manteau and pashmina. My outlook shifted with every change in attire.

My penultimate experience with hijab was at a "cultural center" where chadors are required. This 'chador' was little more than a bed sheet that I was to hold closed with one arm. I was quite tired from running around all day, but this was our chance to have tea with a Mullah so I stuck with it. As we were leaving we posed for group photos-- after the first two photos, the Mullah's assistant asked me (very politely) to close my chador as my manteau was showing. I almost started laughing/crying at the display of clownishness. My respect for the whole thing was lost in that instant.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Life Goes on in Tehran (.com)

On Day 4, we spent the night out with Azad who publishes lifegoesonintehran.com , a super-sweet photoblog about (you guessed it) life in Tehran. To add to the awesomeness, all photos are from his cameraphone.

If you visit his site, you definitely won't be disappointed. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Unconditional Love is Global

It is official.

'Unconditional Love is Global Security', as a concept, has gone from New York to Tehran and back again. 

Let me tell you, because I was asked, there is an abundance of love over there. Everyone we met was hospitable enough to make us blush. As a general rule, the instant someone found out we were Americans they wanted us to know that they love Americans-- and that they think our Presidents (Bush and Ahmadinejad) are cut from the same cloth.  

... more to come. 

....click here for full article/permalink.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 8: Tehran - Artmaking

Our last day was spent making a little art and tending to a few last visits.
The last gallery was Aaran Art Gallery, where we met with Nazila Noebashari (whose run her gallery for over 20 years now) and saw the current show (and featured photographer Kamran Adle). We also got to see work from Ali Ettehad, a fella we met the night before when we had a visit with Vahid Sharifian.
We already excited for our show and tell whence we return.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Day 7: Tehran - Mohsen II and a secular world

Our new translator/guide is Mohsen, not to be confused with our last guide Mohsen [I refer you to Avatar the Last Airbender: City of Walls and Secrets' character 'Joo Dee'] New Mohsen is very (very) excited to help us out. He's been jailed for years (and lashed x20... possession of alcohol) and still stands. He immediately gives us the inside scoop the political history that he was very much a part of (a Fine Arts student at Tehran University-- demonstrating against the shah) and he explains that the world is full of 3 kinds of people. 1) Fanactics 2) Super Fanatics and 3) Extreme Super Fanatics. Like many we've met around here-- he doesn't believe in religion (though he later admits, while his friend laughs, to feeling a metaphysical connection between him and a "higher" power).
After showing us his bookstore, Mohsen took us to have lunch with Pariyoush Ganji, a painter / lecturer / professor (and former classmate of Mohsen) that was also witness to the Revolution. Her place and her studio were amazing. She spoke of generations of artists, was totally into this trip/project, and offered to help in anyway she could. She even quoted Jesus (and made a point to mention that she was secular) when she encouraged me to continue 'striving through narrow doors'.
After a day of satellite television, jokes about creationists and Sunni v. Shiites, it was another day of reinforcing that Iran has many many many faces.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 6: Tehran - Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini

Khomeini was the guy exiled by the Shah/King of Iran that returned after the US coup (that turned into the Revolution). He's the guy that has made Iran an Islamic Republic and turned Iran into the voice of opposition to Israel's domestic policies and the US's international policies. It's pretty safe to consider him the founder of contemporary Iran.
We went to his shrine and got the diplomatic treatment. We were one of this first to get to go up into the 'call to prayer' towers. (Defintely the first tourists). They were all very nice to us and underscored their love for the American people (Though many of the mourners were taken aback to hear that we are American.)

....click here for full article/permalink.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 5: Tehran - Silk Road and Vahid

Later in the day we went to Silk Road Gallery to meet with one of the curators there. They specialize in photography, which isn't always my bag, but they have some great great shows (go ahead, google them). The curator introduced us to Vahid, an artist that we had seen just the night before at an opening. Vahid, who is starting to get attention from international collectors, took us to Ave Gallery, where he has a show up. There he showed us the few pieces that he wasn't allowed to hang (too much lady neck) and invited us to his studio. He also explained that because he refused to serve in the military, they won't allow him to leave the country (despite having upcoming shows in Hollywood and Istanbul).
(Photo: Vahid's show at Ave Gallery)

....click here for full article/permalink.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day 4: Tehran - MOCA and Iranian Artist's Forum

We had our meeting with the International Director of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a resounding success and I met my modest goal of charming the pants off him and being able to count on a continued relationship. He was great.
Later, we went to an opening at the Iranian Artist's Forum. This place was sort of like Williamsburg with its head covered. It's also home to one of the cities only vegetarian restaurants.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Day 3: Tehran - Golestan & Galleries (continued)

Worthy of its own post was our experience at Homa Gallery for a solo exhibit by Sharam Karimi.
In two hours, he'd sold 4 pieces for a total of $20,000.
We spoke with him a bit, definitely a great guy.

....click here for full article/permalink.

Day 3: Tehran - Golestan & Galleries

We went to the Golestan Palace, a place worthy of its tourist trappings.
The entire place is the shiniest thing I have ever seen, and boy do I like shiny things.
Afterwards, we went to a couple small gallery openings.
Rest assured that the art scene here is no better or worse than the one in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
[Photos: Golestan Palace, piece by Bita Fayazi, piece by Farideh Lashai, piece by Koroosh Shishegaran]

....click here for full article/permalink.

Michael is an Iranian TV star

Picture now. Story later.

....click here for full article/permalink.