work in progress
saturday, 19/july/2008
tonight the exhibition opened to the public at large. and it was a very large public. in fact, this was the largest public i have ever seen at an exhibition opening. larger even than what i saw at SIGGRAPH. 21 local artists and 4 curated shows including some international artists. it felt like the whole city was walking through. more like a bazaar than an art exhibit.

so, of course, the conditions of viewing were less than optimal. there was no space, literally, for contemplation. people passed through the galleries looking for sights to be amazed by or goodies to take (a lot of art pieces offered something people could take with them). at some point, the wall of ephemeral monument, effectively turned into a high-school chalkboard with young people writing silly love messages on the wall. "A & M forever," "Laura loves Sean" and the like. there were drawings of birds, houses, flowers, faces, tv sets, etc. i found myself intervening in ways i had not anticipated. much of this public was obviously not interested in reading what was on the wall, nor the didactic panels, nor paid the least bit of attention to the context. they were thrilled to have a wall they could write on and chalk. i had to get active.

i started erasing silly and irrelevant writings and drawings. occasionally, i engaged the writers in conversation, asking them why they were writing and what they thought the piece was about. if i liked their answers, i'd let their writing stay on the wall, even if it was irrelevant. from time to time, i wet erased the phrase "I REMEMBER". a young man asked me if i knew the band 'suicide' because that's their usual refrain. i found myself completely amazed by young american visitors i met tonight. on the whole, they are even less aware of diversity of the world and experiences, more poorly educated about their own history, and have a shorter attention span than the generation i knew when i lived here in the 80s. and that is not intended as a compelment to the youth of the 80s. i am glad about the more active engagement with the audience, but the wall needs to be erased again and perhaps re-writen in parts. i couldn't do that before i left the gallery. the opening party went until 12 and i had to leave at 11.

on the other hands, there were interesting and engaged responses from some of the older visitors. many wanted me to talk about the archive. some wanted to know about the texts and why these exerpts were selected. many took to the idea and wrote comments relevant to the piece. a few second generation iranian-americans added names of people in their families who had died. an older iranian wrote, with a tone of regret, "i supported the islamic republic." a few south american visitors wrote solidarity comments. i was too busy interacting to be able to take pictures of the wall as it evolved. what's below is a sample of what happened.

i have to write about azizeh's reaction and how it affected me later. her response was very intense. i can only write about it when i can unpack my own experience last night.

Last modified 27/JUL/2008 by Gita