Let’s Go To Iran!

a public intervention devised & directed by Zoya Sardashti

Let’s Go to Iran! is a public intervention staged near town halls, city squares or markets. In order to re­direct the gaze of mainstream American media, a collective body comprised not only of Iranians or Americans, but people from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds perform in this project. Casting “other bodies” functions as an act of resistance through cross-­cultural agency by changing the established perception of what can be done and by whom, meanwhile acknowledging the tensions surrounding individual and collective agency.

The performance begins when one of the performers uses a green piece of chalk to draw an outline of Iran around the Haft Seen (a ritualistic table setting used to celebrate the new year). During the performance the public is invited to learn about Iran while the performers pose as travel agents or vendors at an expo. Their goal is to encourage people to travel to Iran because the value of the rial is outrageously depreciated. The performers use visual aids and gestures to discuss the Iranian economy without directly talking about sanctions. On one side of the placard the audience sees a landmark of cultural heritage, a pre-­Islamic symbol rooted in the Zoroastrian tradition, or cultural object. On the other side, the audience sees images of the Iranian rial and its exchange rate compared to the Korean won and the United States dollar. Staging the performance at a location marked by politics, but also near a marketplace, engages people in a polemic about sanctions, economic trends, and cultural agency to ask questions surrounding social process and power.

The agents present objects of value to Iranian cultural heritage and discusses what each object represents while pointing out it’s monetary value compared to prices in South Korea. The agents repeat, “Now’s the perfect time to benefit from her health, beauty, and riches…Objects are cheap cheap cheap and you can buy more more more!” The audience is invited to sample ‘exotic Iranian eggs, dates, and apples’. The performers remove the objects from the Haft Seen and offer them to the audience for consumption.

Eventually all of the objects except the mirror are placed on the ground outside of the chalk outline of Iran. The last attempt to entice the audience to “go to Iran” involves parading around a “real Iranian”. This display addresses the exoticized ways in which Iranian females are sometimes viewed in public or online. Her ‘exotic silk scarves’ are removed and distributed to the audience. The audience is invited to try on her scarves and encouraged to look into the mirror. One tour agent explains that the mirror of the Haft Seen table symbolises the sky, and when you look into the mirror you can see the reflection of one’s self in all of creation. At the end of the performance all of Iran’s “health, beauty and riches” have been removed as one of the agents places a sold sign on the Haft Seen.

Afterwards the performers engage the audience in a conversation directly addressing sanctions. The audience is directed to websites where they can read more about the topic and/or sign petitions. The first installment of Let’s Go to Iran! was staged at Gwanghwamun Square next to the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea in March 2012.