Thursday, October 23, 2008

Duck feet

We've been very busy lately! So far, most of our efforts have been hidden from public view, but over the next weeks and months, more and more things will pop to the surface.

We have updated our HTML website with photographs from the installations, and with some links to articles and blog posts about the show.

Coming soon: a short video about the project, featuring footage from the installations and interviews with visitors.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC: Day two

We're on day two of a two-day installation, and there are already more than a dozen articles and blog entries about the show. Click on the title to see a thoughtful review of the show with a few photographs taken in the installation.

As expected, last night was quite remarkable. We've gotten used to being an island of calm surrounded by chaos, but the mood in the installation seems to become even more powerful around sunset. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the area around us was quite charged at dusk. Police on horseback, police in SWAT gear, police wearing face shields and gas masks confronted protestors also dressed largely in black, many of them wearing goggles or with handkerchiefs tied around their faces to help them contend with pepper spray. The showdown between the groups had turned into a standoff right at sunset.

At just that moment, we played the Adhan (or "call to prayer") over our loudspeakers. It's sensitive territory, incorporating elements from Islam into our art piece. We don't want to send the wrong message to any devout practitioner of any faith. But we thought it was worth the risk: to remind us all that Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same god; to invoke the idea of sincere devotion to a higher power; and, frankly, to inject beautiful sounds into a chaotic and unpleasant environment.

Not long after the muzzein informed us for the last time that there is no god but God, we began to see a trickle of visitors coming from the direction of the police/protestor standoff, some of them with tears in their eyes. As one man approached the exhibit crying, he thanked us for the reminder that we are all God's children. (His words, not mine.)

The moment reminded me of one of Rumi's poems:

Where Is God?

I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagoda, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.

I searched the mountains and the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him. I went to the Kaaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.

I questioned the scholars and philosophers, but He was beyond their understanding.

I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw him; He was nowhere else to be found.

DNC: Day One continued...

Sunset is just around the corner. I'm really looking forward to seeing how our visitors respond as the daylight fades, and the lights in the installation start to really take effect.

I've lost count of the number of people I've talked to from all walks of life. Hundreds. Interestingly, the overwhelming response to the show from visitors has been strongly positive. We have had a few guests who were challenged by what we are doing, but so far it's been nothing but civil discourse.

The same can't quite be said for what's going on around us. As I write these words, there is a standoff going on between Denver and Aurora police and protesters. We're not quite sure how things got inflamed, but somehow things progressed to the point that several hundred police officers in black riot gear faced off with protesters just a few hundred feet from our installation. Pepper spray was used, people were running everywhere, and now the police have about 150 people pinned down in a public plaza. Nobody's quite sure what's going to happen next.

An interesting thing happened in the middle of all of this. Because of where our installation is situated, mounted police, protestors, and all sorts of people were charging by. No matter how crazy things got, our structure was a conflict-free zone. No confrontations took place in our immediate vicinity. Some protestors who had been pepper sprayed chose to sit right outside our structure as they recuperated. It's hard to describe what it feels like when a young woman who is trying to recover from being pepper sprayed looks at you with bloodshot, watery eyes and tells you how important she thinks your art is.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Democratic Convention: Day One

What a day we're having!

Around 9 am, when the structure had only been up for a little more than an hour, a man came by to tell us how upset he was by what we're doing here, and announced that he planned to come back with dynamite to destroy the exhibit. One of our staffers struck up a conversation with him. Within ten minutes, he had changed his viewpoint completely. He said he had never stopped to think about the fact that Iranians were human beings too. As he left, he said he wanted to go tell all his friends to come visit us, since he thought it would be interesting for them to see what we're doing.

Well, I guess we've made a difference for at least one person!

There is an article in this morning's Rocky Mountain News about the installation. It was posted online around 7 this morning, and already there are more than a dozen comments about the show. Click on the title of this blog entry to see the article.

It should be an interesting couple of days here in Denver!

Setting up in Denver

In a few short hours, we'll begin setting the installation up in Denver's Civic Center Park. We're all very excited! If all goes according to plan, we'll have the structure up and running by 8 am. We're envisioning what it will be like for someone who lives in the area to see an enormous art installation appear out of nowhere.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic Team

Congratulations to Hadi Saei, Olympic gold medalist in Taekwondo!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic team

I am watching the Iranian team entering the stadium in Beijing during the opening ceremonies. It's heartwarming to see sculler Homa Hosseini bearing the flag, but it breaks my heart to hear boos coming from the crowd as the Iranian delegation marches.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What a weekend!

Well, the structure is back in the truck, and the field where it stood is empty again. What a response we had this weekend! Hundreds and hundreds of people walked to a field on the edge of town to see a show about Iran. The feedback we got was very encouraging! As an example, a woman I had never met came up to me this morning to tell me she had dreamed about the show last night. We all feel like we're doing something important, and that it's working the way we had hoped. Very exciting!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sneak preview

We just finished putting up the installation in a field in Crested Butte, Colorado. We thought we should have a sneak preview for our hometown, and for a few unsuspecting visitors who are here for the Art Fair this weekend!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wiring harness

We're in the midst of a hot week in Denver, installing the lights, speakers, and wiring harness in the structure. When we're finished, we'll be able to keep the wiring inside the metal tubes which make up the framework, even when we're taking the whole thing apart to transport it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Here I am in New York, working with our excellent printer. I am looking at proofs for all the images in the show and they are looking remarkable! The technology we are using did not exist a year ago. The prints will be just as I dreamed they would be -- translucent yet vibrant, with wonderful skin tones, and clearly visible from both sides. It's a dream come true for me, and I hope the installation we create will look like a dream to viewers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bump in the road

Unfortunately, a key member of our production team has had to leave for personal reasons. We are trying to figure out what this means, but it's clear that we won't be able to accomplish everything we had planned. Right now it seems that the best course of action is to cancel our plans to attend Burning Man this year, and focus on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It will be a hard decision to make, but we'll just have to make an educated guess based on what we know. Most importantly, we wish Rachel well, and hope that her departure from the project makes her life easier right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another blogger takes interest

The show hasn't been put up yet, but already it's sparking controversy. It's interesting to see what motives people assume I have.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bloggers take interest...

A political blog has taken interest in our show. Click on the title of this post for a link to the blog. Search that page for "Civic Center Park" to see the first of many entries. I wonder if they will really come picket our show?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Some nice coverage...

We got a nice write-up in the Rocky Mountain News. Click on the title of this post to see the article.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

Leaving Iran is always bittersweet. Or maybe just bitter. It's always nice to return home, but very hard to leave Iran not knowing whether I will be able to go back. In a few days, I will drop the pseudonym I have been using (Yechdosay Chahar), and will put my fate in the hands of the Iranian government. Will they like what I am doing and therefore be happy to give me another visa someday? Will they dislike it and deny my visa application? Will they grant me a visa but follow me when I return to Iran, possibly creating problems for my friends? There is no way to know right now.

In any event, I had a productive flight from Dubai to Houston, beginning the process of editing the interviews I conducted on this trip.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

An exciting moment in Tehran!

Islamic dignitaries from around the world are convening in Tehran to commemorate the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, and many of them are staying right here in the Laleh Hotel. Late this afternoon, Ryan and I were leaving the hotel to conduct interviews, when we noticed that the police were setting up a metal detector, and x-ray machine and a bag search at the entrance to the hotel. In our bags, we had several still and video cameras, recording equipment, and a large microphone! We're here on a tourist visa, so we didn't really want to have to explain why we were so laden with professional audiovisual equipment. Uh oh!

Fortunately, we were able to come up with a solution. After conducting several interviews (and enjoying ourselves) at a house party outside Tehran, we asked one of our Iranian friends to keep much of our gear overnight. He dropped us off (at 2 am) around the corner from the hotel, and Ryan and I strolled through the search with no problem. Just a few hours later, our trusty friend met us outside the hotel with all our gear and escorted us to a full day of interviews -- and was kind enough to help us with some translation as well. Very impressive for a man who had been out partying until the wee hours!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sunset in Tehran

I had a very exciting trip to the airport in Denver, thanks to a delayed Federal Express package containing my passport. It arrived just after 10 am at my hotel just south of Denver, and one hour later I was through security and boarding my 11:25 flight. Quite amazingly, my bag made the flight too, and after a brief spell in the Houston airport, we were off to Dubai and then Tehran. Now I am looking out my hotel room window at a few remaining spits of snow on the mountains above Tehran.

It's good to be back!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Once More to Persia

In just a few days I travel to Iran with Ryan to capture the last few things we need for our fall installations. We will be doing something new on this trip: video. If all goes according to plan, we will be able to show what a warm reception visitors receive in Iran! But for now, my mind is taken up with the things that must be accomplished before I can depart.

At times like these, I am so thankful for the support of the Manjushri Project! Without those dedicated souls, it wouldn't be possible to realize the vision.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Know Your Candidates: Barack Obama

Responding to Hillary Clinton's threat to "totally obliterate" Iran, Barack Obama observed, "It's not the language we need right now." This seems in keeping with his plan to negotiate with Iran over disputes between the two countries. In today's supercharged environment, the tone of rhetoric has a powerful effect -- not just on Iran, but on Americans. I believe that peaceful language promotes peaceful conduct, and applaud Mr. Obama for the position he has taken.

As always, click on the title of this post to link to a story which inspired it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Know Your Candidates: Hillary Clinton

It's troubling to me when U.S. politicians use aggressive rhetoric concerning Iran. I understand that Iran is officially on the U.S. government-approved boogeyman list, and therefore fair game to be demonized. But Hillary Clinton threatening to "totally obliterate" Iran seems beyond the pale. How far is to from statements like this to armed conflict? Not far enough for my comfort level.

As always, click on the title of this post to link to the article which inspired it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Terrible news

Our thoughts and our prayers go out to those injured or killed in the terrible explosion in Shiraz.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Civic Center Park

I have just come from visiting Denver's Civic Center Park, where we will be displaying our installation during the Democratic National Convention. I could not be happier with the venue! We will be in the heart of Denver, in a beautiful park surrounded by (among other buildings) the Colorado Statehouse with its golden dome, the Denver city offices, the Denver Post, and the Denver Art Museum. If we are lucky, our audience will have government, freedom of the press, and art in mind as they are viewing images from Iran!

Nearly a year ago on a trip to Denver, I drove by Civic Center Park with a friend, and remarked that it would be a wonderful venue for the installation. I am overjoyed that we are just a few months away from realizing that dream.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Democratic National Convention

We have been chosen to display our installation at the Democratic National Convention! What an important venue for us! Perhaps the Democratic candidate for president will have been chosen by then, but perhaps not. In my view, there is at least one dramatic difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: their attitude toward Iran. Obama has said that he is open to conversation with President Ahmadinejad. Clinton has said that with regard to Iran, "no option can be taken off the table," which presumably includes military action or even a nuclear strike on Teheran! If a candidate is to be chosen at the Democratic National Convention, I want the delegates to be able to see the humanity of the people of Iran.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


We have secured a spot at the Talladega Super Speedway for the Amp Energy 500 in October. Not a traditional venue for an art installation, I'm sure! But we wish to reach out to our audience, wherever they may be. What better way to reach a potential audience of more than 100,000 people!

Perhaps I'm a little ignorant about certain elements of American culture. When I say that we will be showing portraits of Iranians at a NASCAR event, the most common response seems to be that I must be very foolish! Perhaps I am naive, but I hope that all Americans would be interested to lay eyes on their counterparts in Iran.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Republican National Convention

We are trying very hard to secure a space at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, but the convention organizers are not making it easy! Strange, since I thought the American constitution guarantees the right to express yourself... But I have been accused of being naive!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fractured Atlas

Fractured Atlas has taken us under their wing. This means that those wishing to help sponsor our work can make a tax-deductible donation to Fractured Atlas! They can even donate through Fractured Atlas' website:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Persepolis (the movie)

Thank you, Sony pictures, for bringing Marjane Satrapi's brilliant "Persepolis" to the United States. I had the pleasure of watching her autobiographical graphic novel brought to the cinema in an American multiplex! I wish that every American was able to see this excellent, informative, witty movie.

For those of you who do not know her story, Satrapi grew up in Teheran during the time of the Iranian revolution. She offers a candid, first-hand account of her experience of having her system of government change dramatically, and of a terrible war with a neighboring country -- something that Americans can only imagine. She tells the story with humor and insight. I hope that my show can be even halfway as truthful and moving as "Persepolis."