Greens’ Art: Art and Digital Media in the Green Movement of Iran (2009-2011)

Author: Amin Ansari

Ansari, Amin, 2015 Greens’ Art: Art and Digital Media in the Green Movement of Iran (2009-2011), Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Abstract

When Mahmood Ahmadinejad was proclaimed the winner of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, both popular and critical opinion held that the election was a fraud and that the regime had hijacked it. The election result provoked dissatisfied voters, general public and activist groups that pre-dated the election, to initiate protests throughout the country. From these protests, the Green Movement of Iran was born. This project-led PhD documents and investigates the role of art and digital media in the Green Movement. Through an analysis of the available literature, artworks, interviews and online resources, this research investigates how art and digital media were used by activists, artists and everyday citizens in their confrontation with the government. The creative outcome of this research is the Greens’ Art website (www.greens-art.net) which is the most comprehensive online archive and curated exhibition of artworks created and circulated during the pre- and post-election periods. The exegesis part of this research explores the role of digital media, art, and user-generated content, on the dynamics of the Green Movement. In doing so, this research advances our understanding of the significance of aesthetics in this Movement. Digital media played a significant role in the formation, progression and maintenance of the Green Movement. The full-scale engagement of protesters and government in cyberspace can be taken as a milestone in the history of digital and political engagement, pre-dating other recent uprisings, such as the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. For their part, the government of Iran applied the most complicated filtering system on the internet and used all available technical and political strategies to isolate the protesters in cyberspace. The people, in response, did their best to bypass the limitations and keep their connections alive. Moving beyond the idealistic notions of a ‘Twitter Revolution’, the exegesis demonstrates how digital media plays a major role in spreading information, by helping protesters to organise some significant rallies and other collective actions, inside and outside Iran. The absence of a copyright system in Iran, coupled with public access to photo/video/music editing software, led to the emergence of vast numbers of amateur and professional creative efforts. Edited photos with political meanings, audio and video clips that represented the protesters’ responses, while sometimes technically amateurish, were some of the first aesthetic products to come out of the post-election period. These were (and continue to be) distributed over social media networks, circulated globally and addressed both internal and external audiences. The exegesis demonstrated that these artistic and expressionistic uses of digital media assisted people who lacked the political freedom of expression be heard.

Keywords: Iranian Green Movement, Protest Art, Activism, User-generated Content, Digital Media, Politics, Iran
Subject: Screen Studies thesis, Media Studies thesis, Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Associate Professor Melanie Swalwell