Iran News ...


An interview with human rights artist , SARA RAHBAR

"I am not Ahmadinejad - I am an Iranian. I am not President Bush - I am an American." - Sara Rahbar

Do you believe that the majority of the world's strife is due to ignorance?

I feel that its more about the lack of feeling a relatedness, of feeling that sameness that exists, that we have completely forgotten about. We have completely forgotten that we are all human beings , the same you and i, we just happen to be living in different parts of the world. But ignorance definitely does play its own role in it, because I find the more I educate myself , the more I travel , the more I connect with different people form around the world, the less I hate , the less I feel that I am alone, and the less I feel different from them. So I think that it is a combination of the two.

I remember looking at this magazine, and it was showing these five year old Iraqi kids holding guns, and the magazine was portraying them as if they were having the best time of their lives. They were like, "Look at them, they're natural born killers, they're growing up to be the next Jihadists." And I was like, "My God, do you know how many layers there are here? Have we walked a day in their shoes. Imagine just for a moment if you will, having your mother, father and brother killed right in front of you, or watching your sister get raped and have half of her face burned off in a bombing, how and who would you grow up to be? Going through intense poverty, and hunger, growing up in war, and violence , day in and day out, and that's just for the first five years of your life. Just to see people get killed in front of you, people don't realize what an impact that has. These kids have layers, and layers that they look through, and make decisions through.

Every time you go through phases of your life, that's a layer. Every time something traumatic happens, every time something great happens, these are layers that become our filters: how we see the world, and each other, and how we see ourselves. In the end, these things make our decisions for us, these memories and these moments. We think we're making these clear decisions for the moment, but most of the time we're just on automatic, reacting from the past.

Did you see the episode of the tv show 30 days where a white Christian guy spent 30 days with a Muslim Family and lived in their shoes so to speak?

No I did not, but I think that walking in each others shoes is necessary , puting ourselves in each others places, and attempting to look from another angle in order to make clear, and educated decisions, yes I think that it's necessarily, and it's a start.

Do you remember living in Iran before moving with your family to America.

I find it interesting that you moved to a country that supported Iraq in their fight with Iran. Am I wrong or what are your thought on that?

No I don't remember living in Iran before moving to the U.S., but I do remember leaving Iran and how dangerous and horrific our trip was , I will never forget that. When we left Iran I was 5 years old and I did not fully understand why we were leaving. But now I think about it, and its not so strange at all. People immigrate mainly because, their countries have become unlivable, for various reasons; war, poverty, political situations, governments, economies.

I believe that America has been meddling in Iran's affairs for years, its really nothing new, there histories and politics are intertwined, and I try to show that in my work, in my flag pieces. I am not taking sides, and its too twisted and complicated to address in a brief statement, but if America had not helped push the revolution into action, and there for Iraq would have not have found Iran vulnerable and attacked, leading Iran and Iraq into an eight year war, and well we all know the rest, America supported a Saddam that they built like the Shah of Iran and then latter took both of them down. It's so interesting how governments play such a key role in our individual fates. If this chaos did not develop in my country, well, I may still be living there. But that's all history now.

And as far as my family and I moving to a country that was supporting a war immediate my country, well sometimes things are a lot simpler than we would like to see them. You see when you have a family , you don't always have the luxury of being politically correct , your basic human instincts kick in , and it's really only about survival. There was an opportunity for my father in America, and he took it. In order to do what was best for his family's future, because he no longer saw one for them, in Iran.

Where did you construct your installation piece with the theme of War in The Middle East? and can you tell us about this piece?

I address current events in my work, I think it was Jeff Koons who said, "Artists are even more powerful than politicians. As we have unlimited freedom of what we can say or do."

I take that very seriously.

I remember when the Queens Museum of Art told me that they had selected me to do a second piece for the biennial and immediately thinking, "My god, I'm doing an art show, all this fluff ,and there's a war going on, people dying every second. I can't just ignore this." I wanted to open up people's minds, to what was going on.

And I wanted to bring this into the museum , this clean white space that they gave me for the installation. This neat and pretty space, I was thinking that things aren't always neat and pretty, and not in an angry way, but in an awake, and aware way, that was looking at what was and is going on in the world around us. I wanted to recreate something ugly in a space that was built for beauty. I wanted to use my powers as an artist, to show a reality that was being ignored.

And I remember a soldier that had just returned form Iraq coming into the museum and just standing and staring at the installation. And I looked at him, and asked him what he thought of the piece. And he had tears in his eyes, and he asked "Did you do this" and I remember being terrified, but I said "yes". and he said "your doing a really good thing, things are a lot different over there, then they portray them to be over here. People are under the wrong impression, we are killing children, mothers ..families , we thought we were going over there to save the Iraqi people, and now they need to be saved from us. And I will never be the same again , after what I have experienced and seen over there. I cant sleep at nights because when I close my eyes, everything plays over, and over again like a film, like a never ending nightmare.

I am looking to do this installation again, and I am looking for a bigger space.

Do you find creating your work a feeling of great anger at the subjects you express?

My work does not come from a foundation of anger. At times I may read an article , see something in the news and get angry an it may inspire me to create a new piece. But its not about anger, its more about passion ,and my passion for human rights, and for my work, and my message. I am attempting to educate through my work, I don't want to just create pretty pictures .

I think that its time that we all began to take a little bit of responsibility for the state that the world is in, and that we began to contribute , instead of complain.

What is your primary goal for your work ?

My primary goal for my work is to educate, and to open up people's minds to new ways of looking at old concepts. It's quite easy to judge, and we spend much of our timing doing so. The question we need to ask our selves is who do we want to be; part of the problem or part of a solution. It's just simply a matter of choosing. We can choose to do more, to be more. We can choose to be kind to one another, to respect , support, and contribute to one another. And in our own unique ways. We don't all have to become politicians, join the peace core, or run for presidency. Each and every one of us has something to contribute, all we have to do, is choose, choose to make a difference.

I choose change, I choose possibility, the possibility of a new day.

And the action that I am taking, is through my work.

Please visit Sara Rahbar's web site ( to see more of her work and find out about her upcoming exhibitions.

... Payvand News - 8/11/07 ... --

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