After graduating from Otis, I packed four suitcases, two carry-ons and a computer bag full of art, and traveled to MOCA Tehran in 2007 to curate “Manifestation of Contemporary Arts in Iran.” The exhibition featured works from 67 Iranian and American artists, including Suzanne Lacy, Masami Teraoka, Jerri Allyn, and Bill Viola. I included the name of Former Prime Minister and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mosavi in the exhibition catalogue. Years prior to the world hearing his name as connected and synonymous with the 2009 Green Movement.
During the Green Revolution, I returned to Iran to curate a solo exhibition of Masami Teraoka’s watercolors. On August 5, 2009, my partner and I took a cab towards the gallery. Police presence mushroomed on Vanak Square as forces on foot, motorcycles, and vans lined the street. Suddenly I was pulled out of our cab while a man foaming from the mouth lunged his upper body into the moving taxi. Arrested, blindfolded and hooded, we were interrogated into the early hours of August 6. On August 7, I attended my first childhood friend’s funeral, where his mother grabbed my inner knee, pleading for her son. Speechless, I disconnected from all I knew. I didn’t leave my aunt’s home again until August 18, when I was assaulted by two men on a motorcycle. My cries were quickly silenced, as I was informed that it is unladylike to cry in public. My only remaining impulse was a need to articulate creatively.
On August 29, I opened Masami Teraoka’s solo exhibition. Everything I had to say about the taboo topics of globalization, Westernization, sanctions, fundamentalism, HIV, prostitution, and the trafficking of young girls as Iran’s biggest export could be found in Masami’s controversially bold paintings. Masami’s work embraced and visualized the aesthetics of the green movement in a complex subversive plateau just beneath the governing factions of the Islamic Republic’s radar of genocide and oppression. The paintings were done in the 1970s with traditional Japanese brushstrokes but they were perfect for the “Jumong”-obsessed Tehran of 2009. The 2009 uprising was inspired more by “Jumong” (an extremely popular South Korean soap opera) than by Mir Hossein Mousavi.
I wrote an Article in TANDIS Art Magazine, about Masami Teraoka’s curent provocative creative practice, which outlines a defiance against organize religion and those in powerful positions used in the manifesto of war and murder in the name of religion. The following is a two page spread in Tandis Art Biweekly, Art Magazine. Tandis (The Art Magazine in Tehran) promoted our exhibition free of charge and thanked Building Bridges and our Art Gallery in Tehran for remaining open and active post elections:
I also took out an add in “Hamshahri همشهری” News Paper, letting audiences know: “We Await Their Green Presence:”
“This past summer I (Marjan Vayghan) traveled to Iran in order to curate Masami Teraoka’s highly anticipated Solo exhibition.
Born to Azerbaijani parents in Tehran, Iran in 1984, I emigrated to the United States in the Spring of 1995, settling with my family in Los Angeles, California. I continue to live alternately between Teheran and Los Angeles. My practice is informed by this context of movement and flexible citizenship across both geographical and cultural spaces, and the multiple realities these spaces engender.
I return to Iran each year in order to curate exhibitions and create work. This year however things happened a little differently then anticipated:
On August 5, 2009 my partner Jesse and I got “arrested” in Vanak sq. on our way to Banafshe gallery.
We were then promptly bagged, tagged, blindfolded and thrown in the back of several different cars on the way to three distinct policing, interrogating and disposal stations (each site scarier then the previous one). I begged and cried while Jesse refused to say anything in Farsi. After six hours of continuous interrogation (similar questions: from car to site to car…) we were “released.” While we were being put through our ordeal, my first childhood friend had his own run in with the forces, except he was not so lucky (my first childhood friend had been beaten to death by the secret police the same night we were arrested.). I attended his funeral on August 7th. My anxiety since the funeral and the following days and weeks after our arrest spiked up to new heights.” – written on the flight back from Tehran to Los Angeles, during the Fall of 2009.