“Watch Towers,” Tehran Edition

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“Watch Towers,” Tehran Edition, Summer of 2006- 2007

The “Watch Towers”, Tehran Edition is a compilation of watch tower photographs and interviews with soldiers based in Tehran Iran. During the Summer of 2006, I had the privilege of meeting with and interviewing the young men responsible for watching over the different cities and neighborhoods of Iran.As young men approach adulthood they are drafted and dispatched away from their families to serve their country. Many undergo military training and are assigned responsibilities and posts such as fire truck drivers, traffic officers, guards, and in similar fields as public servants.

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This compilation of “Watch Tower” photographs and interviews with soldiers based in Tehran Iran, during the Summer of 2006, was inspired by a young man I met a few years earlier. When I faced my fear of these looming watchtowers and interviewed the young men with guns, keeping watch of Iran’s neighborhoods.

Growing up I was under the impression that the men with guns on top of these watch towers were “Americans.”
Many years later, while visiting Iran and now considering my self as both an American and an Azari Iranian. I begged my friend to climb up one of these empty watch towers with me. We giggled and had the best time climbing into one as if we were children climbing jungle gyms.

It was all pretty views of the city, fun and games, till the structure began to shake by a soldier’s heavy boots.

We shrank into a corner of this metal structure, holding each other, praying, crying and so remorseful over the complete collapse of judgment that had us positioned in this frightful situation.

With eyes cringing, crying and terrified, I saw the tip of his gun approaching us from one of the metal windows. I felt so guilty for dragging someone else into my horrible adventure.

The next thing we knew the heavy boots that had been shaking the metal structure and our entire beings were inside the watch tower with us, complete with official uniform, a gun and the manifestation of all of our nightmares.

For a minute I thought if I didn’t open my eyes I would wake up somewhere else. I was beyond petrified. Finally I opened my eyes to another teenager, like my self. A confused, teenager at his government appointed post. He was ditching, his duties, as we had been, he was excited to see other teenagers, instead of his supervisors. He saw how terrified we were and broke the ice by saying “wanna hold my gun?”

OMG he was so sweet, he was literally disarming himself to put two teenage girls at ease. We wiped our tears and as he was helping us leave the watchtower and get back on the street, via his own secret routs, we talked. We exchanged names, our age, where we were from, our unfinished schooling status, our dreams, jobs, the supportive people in our lives, what we think about when we day dream and our loves. That interaction led to the “Watch Tower” series of photographs and interviews, below. Where, I created a questioner with the info we exchanged with that soldier on that day and tried to reach as many people as possible (with the inherit and disarming love within all of us, beneath the uniforms we wear and the shields we cary).

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 Watch Towers

The Tehran Edition, summer of 2006- 2007

“A post-post modern artist, Marjan Vayghan is a performance artist, an installation artist, a writer, and a go-between, using her art-making strategies, not to divide, but to demonstrate that difference should not mandate separateness.  Vayghan’s engagement with the traditional fine arts is one of repatriation, restoring to art its original purpose—to reach out to the audience, with the hope of bringing people together.  The power and subtlety of her work is the intersection between the artist’s intention, the collaborators who may or may not know that they are part of a performance, and the humanistic and ecumenical statements that unfold with a spontaneous naturalness embedded within that most artificial of actions: art.  Her most recent work, Watchtower Study, based in Iran, breaks the barrier between the surveyor and the surveyed and interrogates the Panoptican.  In Iran, watchtowers are placed at social intersections and presided over by otherwise unemployed young men who stand hour after hour, observing their fellow citizens.  For a few months they can go from being watched to being the watcher.  A watchtower is a structure of duality: a tower can watch over you, take care of you, protect you from harm; a tower can also watch you.  Pregnant with its own antithesis, the tower is a yet another luminal object, always on the threshold of becoming something else.  Deconstructing the apparent duality of surveillance, Vayghan does something very simple: she talks to the young men about their role in the towers.  The encounter, the performance, the appropriated installation (the watchtowers) metamorphizes into hybridity, as she unveils the absurdity of oppression: for oppression to operate, it must be mindless.  None of the watchers understood why they were watching or what they were watching for.  The watchers do not see.  The artist leaves the men in place, as she left her prayer rugs in her Imam Zadeh Saleh mosque project, abandoning to the future what she calls “a comfort zone, a meeting ground, an interstitial space,” created out of the ritual of interactions between herself and others.  Perhaps the minds of the young men she spoke with were moved, like her prayer rugs, but she will never know.” – Review by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

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 Watch Towers

The Tehran Edition, summer of 2006- 2007

“A post-post modern artist, Marjan Vayghan is a performance artist, an installation artist, a writer, and a go-between, using her art-making strategies, not to divide, but to demonstrate that difference should not mandate separateness.  Vayghan’s engagement with the traditional fine arts is one of repatriation, restoring to art its original purpose—to reach out to the audience, with the hope of bringing people together.  The power and subtlety of her work is the intersection between the artist’s intention, the collaborators who may or may not know that they are part of a performance, and the humanistic and ecumenical statements that unfold with a spontaneous naturalness embedded within that most artificial of actions: art.  Her most recent work, Watchtower Study, based in Iran, breaks the barrier between the surveyor and the surveyed and interrogates the Panoptican.  In Iran, watchtowers are placed at social intersections and presided over by otherwise unemployed young men who stand hour after hour, observing their fellow citizens.  For a few months they can go from being watched to being the watcher.  A watchtower is a structure of duality: a tower can watch over you, take care of you, protect you from harm; a tower can also watch you.  Pregnant with its own antithesis, the tower is a yet another luminal object, always on the threshold of becoming something else.  Deconstructing the apparent duality of surveillance, Vayghan does something very simple: she talks to the young men about their role in the towers.  The encounter, the performance, the appropriated installation (the watchtowers) metamorphizes into hybridity, as she unveils the absurdity of oppression: for oppression to operate, it must be mindless.  None of the watchers understood why they were watching or what they were watching for.  The watchers do not see.  The artist leaves the men in place, as she left her prayer rugs in her Imam Zadeh Saleh mosque project, abandoning to the future what she calls “a comfort zone, a meeting ground, an interstitial space,” created out of the ritual of interactions between herself and others.  Perhaps the minds of the young men she spoke with were moved, like her prayer rugs, but she will never know.”

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