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Art and Dictatorship, Dictatorship, Iran

Green Movement’s Paintings

In a time of inhumanity, in a time of political and social injustice, in a time of intolerance towards what you write, what you say, what you think, in a time of censorship and slanderous attacks, and in a time when your only weapon is the power of your imagination, art becomes the most magnificent tool of survival. During this time, art also becomes the key communication tool. It becomes a window through which the viewer can through it see the hidden, the unknown world.

During the past five months after the presidential election in Iran, the world has seen, heard and read about the situation in the country and the birth of the Green movement. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, sequences of peaceful demonstrators being beaten up by truncheons, fired by tear gas, and shot by fire-weapons from the roofs of official buildings have been quickly spread over the world. The green movement was therefore boosted by the new communication channels. What happened to those who were arrested and jailed was however not that evident. Although facts have been collected through a large number of witnesses who testified about the circumstances, about the tortures and about the countless number of bodies they had seen, no one has captured these painful scenes in pictures.

Green movement’s paintings, is the name of a video by Soheil Tavakoli which illustrates the post election events in Iran. A series of 25-30 digital paintings are combined together to build up the story. Tavakoli uses a minimalist style in his work where the subjects are reduced to their basic elements. Although the details in the scenes (faces, buildings, etc.) have been taken away, paintings are rich in color and content. The proportions of buildings, rooms, and figures are all well preserved. The minimalist base of Tavakoli’s work can be explained by the fact that he is an architect. Graduated from Beheshti University in 1996, he has been working in several different architecture firms inside and outside of Iran, see here. Tavakoli’s artistic expression is fresh and not calculated.

The story of the post election events contains illustrations from the street demonstrations, and beating of people by the police and military forces. The most heartbreaking illustrations are however from the prisons. For someone who has never been into a prison, it is difficult to imagine. It is difficult to imagine the prison walls, high up to the dark, it is difficult to imagine the never ending anguish screams. For someone who has never been into a prison it is difficult to imagine her own heart beat accelerate to the top each time hearing the footsteps of the guards getting closer. Such feelings are well captured by Tavakoli’s illustrations. These includes how it looks like inside the prisons, jammed in small rooms, and how they are blindfolded tortured to confession. The illustrations also include tearful rape scenes. These scenes are so realistic, so lively that you feel to be swept by an ocean of mournful waves.

Although the illustrations are well done, the manuscript is not well written and feels weak. For someone who does not know about the events, it is difficult to follow the story-line. A proper intro is missing. And the ending feels diffuse. Also some of the illustrations are repeating both in the beginning and end of the video with no real connections to each other, like the crowd of people at historical places. The sinking ship is probably a metaphoric symbol for the end of Iran’s coup government, but it is not clear how it fits right there. An unfortunate piece in the story, is the picture of Ahmadinejad (appointed president) hanged in the first page of news. Unfortunate, because the nature of the green movement in Iran is peaceful and against violence. If Tavakoli’s objective with the video was to tell the story of the movement, he should have instead pointed out the path of the peaceful, civil protests.

Tavakoli has also released the 2nd part of the video. The style has been kept the same and illustrations follow the same minimalist style as in the first video. What is different here, is that Tavakoli has tried to create a connection between the illustrations and by that to build up an story. The illustrations at least follow a logical sequence this time. The problem is that neither in this video, Tavakoli has been very successful in creating a good storyline. Moreover, the only element which connects the two videos is the artistic style of the illustrations and not the story as such.

All in all Green Movement’s Paintings is a good work from an artistic point of view. The video is accompanied by Michael Kamen’s Don Alfonso which perfectly expresses the nature of the story. Tavakoli is going to release the he 3rd and the last video in this trilogy. To make it work, Tavakoli however should work more on the manuscript. He should also listen to the peaceful calls of the protesters in Iran and advocate justice by fair and effective prosecutions, even for those who beat, torture and kill the people of Iran. This is the only way to promote free and democratic values in a country where undemocratic rulers have been on power for centuries.

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