in April 2007, I had planned to go to Iran for the second time since I had come out in 1978. The trip was to be for 3 weeks and a week before my trip I decided to organize a burn in Iran. People said I was crazy and would end up in jail. I told them I will go as far as I feel safe. I really wanted to get to know the people through an experience other than the normal touristy stuff and back then I was really obsessed by burning man, so I decided to do it.
The only person who supported the idea was a friend who ran an online art magazine in Tehran. And that’s where I went on the second day of my arrival.
I met some cool people including Mohsen Namjoo who later I found out was an up and coming musician who had to leave Iran for political reasons.
I went to work and started meeting artists who were introduced to me by my dear friend Sohrab. Almost everyone I met agreed to come out to this burn. They had never even heard of burning man and had no idea what I was talking about. Ask any burner — the burning man experience is something you can’t explain to anyone. But the idea was fresh and the artists were intrigued by it. Let’s gather in a land somewhere to create art and mayhem.
I met two groups, an art collective, who did guerrilla public art installations around Tehran, and a small school of arts. A solo installation artist along with my own cousin were the other two artists. My cousin was to build the effigy.
Here he is in his office behind the model. He called it the devil’s chimney. It looked like an oil rig when it was all said and done which was also at the big burn in Nevada that year, albeit, a much more elaborate installation. We only had 2 1/2 days to make all the art.
I did manage to do some sightseeing around Tehran. It’s a crazy city after all.
The largest project required some shopping in the Bazaar. So, one of the artists and I went there one day and did all our shopping. The wood was ordered through a local merchant.
Some random pics around the bazaar.
And here’s my dear friend, Ardi (JaJa) who took me to my first burning man in 2004.
I did also see some random art installations around the city;
So, the most challenging issue was to find a location where people wouldn’t bother us. They told me no matter how far we go out of the way, there will be people who are nosy and will come by trying to figure out what we are doing and will eventually report us to the authorities. I talked to tour operators and other individuals but nothing seemed feasible.
Until one day when I was talking about my adventure with a distant family member (we will call him Ali Agha) where the magic happened. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it, but we do actually have some distant family in a village north of Tehran in the mountains. My grandmother on the mother side was from there. So, Ali Agha promptly suggested that we do this in the village. And we were set.
Here are some pics on the way to the location:
We landed at the farm
And our first visitors showed up soon after
The rest of the gang showed up the next day. Raising of the effigy.
Even I made some art
The wind overnight had taken hold of my art and made it into real art.
One of the artists from the school made an incredible piece. He worked non stop for the entire time.
A well known artist from Tehran came out too with her scare crows
The effigy again
The night rolled in with style
I had brought 200 large glow sticks with me — in my luggage (imagine 4 tubes of 50 glow sticks running through Dulles, Heathrow and Tehran airports 🙂
We even had some visitors from the village and others from Tehran.
And the only person who had dressed up in costume, passed out early.
The next day, we did a major clean-up and returned the land to its original state. This boy had the most fun of all.
Some of the art didn’t get to finish until the last day.
And I did manage to fall in love with this beautiful girl.
Some more pics
Obviously an amazing experience for me and I think for everyone else. I did try to bring some of the artists to the US the next year, but it deemed very difficult. Maybe, just maybe …