Imagining Geography



Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents. -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Calvino's Invisible Cities is, among other things, a beautiful and unique rumination on imagination and geography and Never Been to Tehran, an exhibition curated by Andrea Grover and Jon Rubin, explores a similar terrain. For the project they asked an international group of artists (who have never been to Tehran) to look to their own towns and environments, imagine, and then photograph their conception of what the city of Tehran looked like. The resulting photos reflect not only the Tehran we see through our current media-informed lens (exotic, dangerous, and otherly), but also the growing multiculturalism of the world's major centers. Images of architecture, industry, communal spaces, and food, elegantly make visible the power of perception in contemporary geopolitics. The images were streamed everyday, in the form of a slide show, to galleries in Iran, Turkey, the US, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany, but this physical manifestation wraps up today. Luckily for those of us not in any of these cities, however, the exhibition's photo-sharing site remains on view. In a time of heated political rhetoric, 'Never Been to Tehran' encourages us to imagine beyond the recent inflammatory depictions of Iran, to find links to our own personal geographies, and to remember that in many instances 'each city takes to resembling all cities.'