The Rybon International Artists Workshop – Tehran

In October last year I spent two weeks in Tehran for their first ever international artists workshop/residency. From what I heard from the organisers and taking into account the current situation there, this will probably be the last such workshop for a very long time. There was one artist from South Africa, and one from India, China, Jordan and Lebanon respectively and then 6 artists from Iran.

I went there without any ideas regarding what I would make. The Tehran streets are filled with martyr murals funded by the state which celebrate soldiers (fictional or real) who gave their lives for the regime especially in their wars with Iraq. It’s such a violent form of communication. During my presentation as I spoke about the idea of signals in my work and the hidden significance embedded within the static noise between television channels I had the idea of making a large wall mural to stand as a marker of the filters and blockages and isolationism that is the government’s policy in Iran. Their internet is severely limited and many sites are blocked and filtered. Nevertheless, the people have ways of skirting these blockages so they can participate in international society especially in terms of social networking. The first work I made was called No Signal, Tehran 2012.

After the peoples uprising against Ahmadinejad, his government and the Mullah regime post the elections in 2009 and the subsequent clamp down and violent response from the government (including public executions), it felt to me like the people were beaten and recovering but still with the same anger and resentment; that they were sleeping or hiding and licking their wounds but waiting. My second work incorporated the work of one of the Iranian artists at the workshop – Baback Kazemi who gave each of the international artists a photograph of a pillow on which we were to make our own intervention. I tore the pillow image up and used them as part of a second wall mural which can be seen below. This work is called Torn from Sleep, Tehran 2012.

No Signal, Tehran
Torn from Sleep (detail)
Torn from Sleep, Tehran
Torn from Sleep (detail)