Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yek Shambeh (Sunday)

Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran

1) A telling moment yesterday: my Italian and Greek co-jurors were talking about their countries' respective presidents. They then tuned to me, and both said they never hear anything about Canada. I said, yes, Canada is like that. Nobody ever hears anything about us. Then the Greek, Lampros, said: you had that very provocative, smart leader a while back - years ago - we remember him. Trudeau?, i ask. Yes, he says. That's the one.

2) In a cafe, a young man today showed me a dog tag his brother had made for  him. It had his name, his birthdate, and his blood type on it. "This is for tomorrow" he said. "Tomorrow" is the big demonstration in support of Egypt and Tunisia, organized by members of the opposition. The brother had made dog tags for each of them. The demonstration has been banned, but is going forward. Hence  the need for names and blood types. I am confronted "chest to chest" with a reality very different from my own.

3) The Museum of Contemporary Art has on display an exhibit of Islamic Revolutionary Art. It reminds me of the art I saw at the Alte Pinakotek in Munich a few months ago - religious, revolutionary, glorious symbols of divinity and sacrifice. One exhibit was Christian, and 400-500 years old. One was Iranian, and recent. But there were also other pieces of contemporary secular art that I found wonderful. One was a stack of cages - bird cages - that filled a open space in the gallery. There was the sound of birds, which I assumed was a recording, until I saw two birds in one of the corner cages on the bottom. THEN i was interviewed by an Iranian News TV crew. I suppose not many foreigners pass through the gallery in February. I didn't talk about the cages. Nor did I tell anyone that I was surreptitiously taking photos of the artwork - something that is banned in galleries, for some reason (apparently a fairly recent rule).

4) I crossed my first busy street today. Crossing the street in Tehran is an activity like no other street-crossing experience in the world, as far as I know it. It's like wading into a raging river, and somehow trying to judge which waves might hit you, and which will veer at the last minute. Yet - everyone does this. Although my guide, Nasim, was almost hit by a motorcycle that suddenly appeared around the corner of a bus, going the wrong way up three lanes of traffic. 

5) I saw the legendary German director Peter Stein on his way to breakfast today. As it turns out, we're staying in the same hotel. I met him briefly yesterday. He's looking good, for a guy who revolutionized theatre practice in Europe. I am off to see his show tonight. It's not in the competition we are adjudicating, but our schedule allows us to see it. Apparently HE is performing. 

6) Internet sites that are blocked, so far: Facebook, Blogspot, Radiozameneh (Iranian news). 

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