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, July 8, 2009

Short Interview w/me on Social Networking and #iranelection

(Interview Questions posed by Meena Ganesan.... I start riffing...)

BriAnna Olson:

Obviously social networking has taken citizen journalism to a whole new level. Why is an online medium so effective? Its really quite simple: Instant access coupled with people "just like you and me" that is, without journalism careers to consider.

The Importance of Following a Controversy So Closely

The Iranian election controversy, in particular, will define the course of history-- for not just 'the other side of the world', but the entirety of a world that constantly struggles with the relationship between religion and policy.

There is a very sizable population of secular educated Iranians who have, after an ugly, bloody revolution (1979) that was hellbent on getting US/capitalist/untrustworthy interests out of their government/country, let the religious take the reins of the country-- forcing many of them out of jobs and into hejabs.

When they saw Obama get elected, they saw a new hope-- and when they felt their election was stolen from them-- they fought back with 30 years of pent up frustration. I think we are seeing the pendulum swing on a large scale-- I only hope that, once all is said and done, the secular do not ostracize the religious-- inviting another round of push and pull.

Mostly, I just hope we can all see & recognize the successes and failures of integrating religion with social policy.

Challenges & Benefits to Tweeting/Blogging about Iran

For one, again, instant access and 'on the ground' reports- half a minute after someone in Tehran has posted, thousands of people, from Cairo to New York to Sydney, can read.

Another benefit was the whole concept of "re-tweeting" (RT) information-- after its original post short 140 character sentences can be 're-broadcast' by recipients, reaching pocket after pocket after pocket of social network.

With the use of hashtags, Twitter created an instant database of #iranelection musings that could be sifted and sorted.

One of the first challenges, or primary concerns, was the reliability of information. I was fortunate enough to know the handful of legit Iranian "Tweeters" to follow on Twitter, so never had to face the issue of "true or not true". Only once did I retweet (via a stranger) without checking the source and retracted within 60 seconds after understanding the harm that the potential disinformation could have created. Several days in, according to many, government agents had infiltrated Twitter to create disinformation. Again, I had already established a relationship with other sources, so was not privy to who was who on that end.

The other major challenge was that anyone based out of Tehran that provided information on Twitter was at risk of arrest. The natural response of the Twitter community, on request, was to change their locations to Tehran (to create far too many profiles to sift through) as well as drop the established protocol of embedding the original source in a RT (to protect identities but keep information flowing).

Personal Connections

As for personal connections, yes, there are many. Everyone I met during my trip last October is a personal connection. Whether it was a translator, cab driver, artist or gallery owner, every one of them let us know their country is ripe for change and expressed an intense want for an evolution of our diplomatic dialogue. They all knew our (then) upcoming election was a big deal-- and they promised us that if we kept McCain out of office, they'd do the same with Ahmadinejad. 

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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Twitpic'd

I am following the events of Iran's election very closely on Twitter. So closely that I haven't given a moment to consider writing about it. One thing is for certain, the path of history travels through Iran and all should watch our as our generation slowly defines itself.

Watch the #iranelection twitter feed (in real time) here.

Above image from @madyar on Twitter.

When the dust settles, I hope to offer you, internet, my opinion and collected interviews on the subject.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Papa'ism" @ Exhibition in Paris

Attention Parisians and Globetrotters, Vahid Sharifian (see posts from our trip to Iran) will be part of a group show (all Iranian artists) at Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac [7 Rue Debelleyme]. There you can see an installation of his "Hurt Stars". The curator at Ropac lauds Sharifians coined "Papa'ism" which he sees as a critique of both Dadaism and Pop Art.

Opens Feb. 19, Closes March 27.

Also in the show:

Shirin Aliabadi - Maryam Amini - Ali Banisadr - Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar - Ala Dehghan
Bita Fayyazi - Shahab Fotouhi - Ghazel - Ramin Haerizadeh - Rokni Haerizadeh - Y.Z. Kami
Avish Khebrehzadeh - Laleh Khorramian - Farhad Moshiri - Behrouz Rae

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Presentation/Lecture @ Emerson College in Boston

This Feb. 12th, the Visual and Media Arts Department of Emerson College is sponsoring an event with Yours Truly.

The Cabaret @ 80 Boylston St. Boston, MA.
Secret stories, candid answers.

Live in Boston and want to attend? Send a note.



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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview on GlobalVoicesOnline.org

I credit the interviewer with how well this article came out.

Check it out and definitely keep an eye on their site-- a great resource for global goings-on, straight from the voices of people who are blogging on their own time (like this one!).

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

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mainstreamedia // Urban Iran & End of an Era

I've always had a knack for being ahead of the curve when it comes to recognizing cool from a mile away.

Two nicknames I've collected along the way, "harbinger" and "OmniBri", are indicators of that. Social scientists probably have a number of names for how they classify my personality (Malcom Gladwell uses "cool hunter"), I think.

A friend sent me an article today that I think signals a more mainstream recognition of Iran's urban artists. I really hope the media runs with this. Last month, NYTimes ran an article on Iranian contemporary artists (and their success at international auction houses). Meanwhile, I've literally "been there".

This signals the beginning of the end of this project for me. Or at least a major evolution. I'm still, personally, working on over a dozen other projects and trying to incorporate "Unconditional Love is Global Security" in them as well. That phrase, too, is ahead of its time. ;)

Click here or below for the full article.

"What we are experiencing now is a re-emergence of art in Iran," writes photographer Sina Araghi in "Urban Iran," a collection of essays, photography, art and illustrations from Iranian artists in Tehran and abroad.

In an interview earlier this week, writer and "Urban Iran" creative director Charlotte Noruzi agreed: "The spirit of innovation, and you could say, rebellion even revolution ... is very alive there, but it is creative, rather than destructive."

"Urban Iran" credits the generation raised after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 with this creative spirit. After Ayatollah Khomeini led the overthrow of the Shah and declared Iran an Islamic Republic, the country shifted. The post-Revolution generation has learned to express themselves with few resources, access or media freedoms.

"There are all these things happening sort of under the radar," said Noruzi, who was born in Tehran, but moved to America in 1977. "They're unstoppable."

[Listen to Noruzi talk about "Urban Iran" in this narrated slideshow.]

The stories told in the book are as diverse as they are idiosyncratic: How can Iran's political history be traced in past beard styles versus today's "renegade beardlets"? How can one car, the French-born but Iranian-copied Peugeot 206, be both a vehicle for authorities' suspicions and Iranians' dreams of a better life?

"Urban Iran" was developed as an international collaboration with contributors from across the world, including Tehran, Europe and the United States. Noruzi contacted the Iran-based illustrators and artists featured in the book and worked closely with the book's designer, Eliane Lazzaris.

"Urban Iran" confirms what many already know: Creative expression in Iran has long been a struggle. Despite much international acclaim, Iranian filmmakers have had to find inventive ways to skirt government authority and censorship. Jafar Panahi, an Iranian director, personally smuggled films out of Iran to play at festivals like Cannes, where they have garnered awards and accolades. But to this day many have never been shown in Iran.

Other Iranian expatriates, like Marjane Satrapi in France, examined Iran from outside its borders. Satrapi's graphic novel about her youth and the Iranian Revolution, "Persepolis," was adapted into a film in 2007 and nominated for an Academy Award.

Noruzi believes "Urban Iran" captures this spirit of perseverance in Iran. "Young artists are trying to give a wakeup call to their fellow countrymen saying, 'Let's look a little deeper here. ...We deserve to be known and seen and we're tired of living under the veil."

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

The Gaming world in Iran

From friend Seg:
"Not very often that Iran and the world of video games mix, but this story is somewhat perplexing in it's misinformation. So Iran says they're making a games rating board and first says they are buddying up with the North American games rating board, ESRB. The ESRB denies this and it seems they either misspoke or changed the name of their own board to the ESRA."

Click here for the story. The comments are where I found the most value. Frank Smith says: "When did they get electricity?"

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

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mainstreamedia: Hooman Majd Strikes Again!

As previously seen on The Daily Show promoting his book "The Ayatollah Begs to Differ", Hooman Majd is becoming my favorite seasoned Iranian hyphenate. His candor is clearly relayed through his accent free, very American sounding voice. This is a guy who'll tell you about smoking opium with Muslim clerics (we've heard from a few Iranians that "they're all addicted to it") and he'll also tell you what part of Tehran you can buy weed.

Anyway, friend Val sent me this short (less than 8 minutes) NPR interview with him about the Iranian customs that most Westerners know nothing about. Michael and I saw "taroff" in action when every cab driver denied payment the first couple times our translator offered. Listen here!

Oh, yeah, this:

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

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Really Great Photo Project!

... that is clearly inline with this one.
Artists, people to people, beautiful things.

Pictures of You: Images From Iran

He was interviewed by Pars Arts here.

Read some of the Press!
Here is an... unfavorable... review:

"Loughlin's unbalanced view of the reality of the Iranian people undoubtedly plays directly into the hands of Iran's ruling elite, the message that Iranians are well, happy, and carefree are superficial and promote the Iranian regime's agenda to convince world leaders to use "diplomacy" and not violence as a means to deal with them.

The Iranian regime knows all too well, and recent US diplomatic history has shown that diplomacy and its potential results of appeasement are simply a ploy to buy time and continue their expansion of suppression.

Loughlin and those that fund his rather expensive projects have a responsibility to understand the message of their art, while attractive, only encourages Tehran's hideous and oppressive nature.

At the very least, Loughlin has an obligation to show all sides of Iran's social structure. The truth of the matter is that Iranians, because of their serious situation in the world spotlight, are infused with politics and burning to tell the world the horrific crimes they have witnessed throughout the years. Of course, the fear in speaking out and documenting such things is ever-present. "

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

Gregorian New Year and Christ's Birth

Traveling to a country like Iran is an eye-opening experience for an American or Westerner. For one, American culture and media would have you believe that New Years and Christmas are universal experiences. Indeed, even Jewish children in New York go see Santa. And don't forget that Muslims do believe that Jesus was a prophet of god/allah and often Iranian politicians try to find even ground by invoking his name in formal addresses to Western worlds. But, its very clear to me, after much traveling, that my roots are in a Christian world, and that there is no 'Regular' world. That said, Christmas is my favorite holiday. The last two weeks of mine have been steeped in family, love, and celebration.

I had a great New Year's with friends in New York City, but again, a 'date' worth researching. Irregular lengths of months, days coordinated with the sun, but not weeks. All very strange, IMHO. Check out the Gregorian Calendar Wikipedia page. One point of pride coming from one gallerina I'd met in Tehran, was the organic and seemingly superior calendar system of Iran. Nowruz (there are a bazillion ways to spell it) is the Iranian version of Christmas/New Years (family time and celebrations). This Iranian New Year begins on the spring equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator. From wikipedia:
"an astronomical solar calendar and one of the longest chronological records in history and is currently used in Iran and Afghanistan as the main official calendar. Beginning each year on the vernal equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran (or the 52.5°E meridian, which also defines IRST), this makes it more accurate than the Gregorian Calendar in being synchronized with the solar year, but harder to work out when a particular date would occur before the New Year preceding that date.

Iran even initiated a calendar reform (a tweak) in 1925! I can't even imagine the Western powers considering this.

So, interestingly enough, in regards to calendars and a sense of date and time, we are two different cultures with two different concepts of timekeeping. 

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