RICH KIDS: A HISTORY OF SHOPPING MALLS IN TEHRAN
by Brittany Crowell
“If we want to know how to change direction, we have to learn where we started from,” our hosts Javaad Alipoor and Peyvand Sadeghian state as they start at one point and trace the lineage of a moment back to the beginning of time “… or else there is nothing left to do but put our foot down and accelerate.”
We are living in a technological age where many of our daily devices hold built-in obsolescence but are not consumable. Our phones will last 25 times longer than we will on this earth, and as such, humans are driving archaeological change and creating “technofossils” that will outlive us and change the way future millennia see our society.
“All humans born since 1948 have slightly radioactive teeth,” Alipoor states, outlining the impact of technology and every human action on the world we currently inhabit. Alipoor and Kristy Housley, co-creators of “Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran,” then jump into an archaeological dig, guiding the audience through a tour of their narrative using Instagram feeds of #richkidsofinstagram, google map breakdowns of shopping malls in Tehran, and black and white images of the Iranian revolution. Beginning at the point of a Porsche car crash with the central characters of our story, modern Iranian “Aghazadeh” Hossein and his illicit girlfriend Parivash, our archaeologists work backwards through science and storytelling, examining the moments leading up to the crash from minutes, to hours, to days, to centuries. How did we get here? What created this nouveau-riche class, and where is the disconnect between who we were and what we are?
“Rich Kids” is structured like an internet rabbit hole. Viewers watch from multiple mediums, switching from Instagram live to streaming video to social media feeds. Moments of split-focus add to the feeling of oversaturation, as the audience watches the piece simultaneously through video stream and Instagram live, reading words on a screen before they are spoken, unsure of which imagery to watch: the digitized faces of our hosts, or the technologized images distorted on our screens. The media itself moves quickly from one image / concept / theme to the next, making the audience feel as though they are scrolling through a google news search, skimming the surface of a social media society, whizzing past historical imagery in a sped up narrative documentary. The further back in time the piece travels, the more the pace quickens, and as time begins to fall apart in this non-linear historical journey, the digital elements of the piece follow suit, the audio breaks and the video skips and tears.
Our hosts, Javaad and Peyvand hold our attention as we crane our necks and perk our ears to better catch the nuggets of wisdom and beauty that they toss our way. They are comforting hosts, easy to listen to, enticing; and they hold our hand, beautifully and comfortably leading us through each moment of technological interaction throughout the show. Leaving the piece, I stared at the final screen for a few minutes, trying to process the whirlwind of what I had just experienced; trying to hone in on what I had learned, enjoy the cosmic scale of what was discovered while contemplating the things we dig up and the things that we bury.
RICH:KIDS A HISTORY OF SHOPPING MALLS IN TEHRAN
(60 minutes, talkback afterwards)
by Javaad Alipoor
Co-created by Javaad Alipoor and Kristy Housley
Produced by The Javaad Alipoor Company
Under the Radar Festival; The Public Theater
“Rich Kids” runs January 7-10; 14-17