Iranian Artists Decry “Lack of Action” in SFMOMA Protest

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Iranian Artists Decry “Lack of Action” in SFMOMA Protest

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) on Thursday, November 17, an anonymous group of Iranian artists unfurled eight banners that read “Woman, life, freedom” — the Kurdish chant that has become the slogan of the country’s recent protests — and portrayed Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, who was killed at the hands of Iran’s morality police. Amini’s death sparked nationwide protests in pursuit of equal rights and an end to the country’s theocracy, and the Iranian government has issued a violent crackdown, with hundreds of demonstrators killed and more than 17,000 detained.

“This was a protest to bring awareness about the current uprising in Iran and the lack of action within art communities and establishments,” one of the action’s organizers, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Hyperallergic via Instagram direct message. They explained that SFMOMA was chosen because of its position as one of the city’s and nation’s major art institutions and that the protesters intended to “re-perform” a nearly identical action last month at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

That protest was staged by a different anonymous collective, but the SFMOMA event was organized as “an act of solidarity to keep the message alive.”

In a video of the action, eight protesters each drop a banner from the museum’s second-floor banister, allowing the red sheets of fabric to fly over the staircase. A crowd of visitors gazed up from below, many taking photographs.

The demonstration follows another recent action at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Earlier this month, a group of Iranian activists tied their hands to an outdoor installation in remembrance of the “Bloody Friday” Massacre, when Iranian security forces killed almost 100 people in the city of Zahedan. Iranian artists have also created poignant visual protest art to express their solidarity and outrage.

Among the thousands behind bars for speaking out against the Islamic Republic are at least dozens of cultural workers. Among them is poet Atefeh Chaharmahalian, a member of the board of Iran’s Writers Association, who was arrested by security forces in Tehran on October 3 and is being held in the Evin Prison, notorious for its abuse of political prisoners. A list of known imprisoned writers has been shared by American poet Charles Bernstein and poet and activist Sepideh Jodeyri, and PEN America has also been monitoring the targeted arrests of authors, critics, and journalists.

SFMOMA has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.

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