NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 43


City, Graffiti And Individuality; “You Are Here” A Project By Monir Zarnegar

Alireza Taghaboni

A project by Monir Zarnegar attempts to correlate several urban issues. The whole project consists of 365 concrete cubes of 15 cm with printed graffiti hearts on it, along with 365 photographs used as a postcard from the location and diagrammatic guide to the parts. The artist tries to interact with the audience by redefining interest as a game. The intent is to generate joy and excitement while you search for your heart and simultaneously building your understanding of the city and its dreams.
Taking images of painted hearts on different urban walls is the result of wandering throughout the city with no destination in mind nor a map., The wanderer passes through the city’s less seen neighborhoods and crosses through from its ostentatious layers to find deeper areas.

The concept of urbanization is at the heart of this project, with a focus on areas that can be thought of as the subconsciousness of the city. If people’s dreams and wishes are images that our subconscious uses to help us confront taboos, repressions, fears and forbidden sentiments, then perhaps graffiti is an expression of those same dreams. The city’s subconscious to constructing something through the deconstruction of another. It breaks discipline and rules and represents the search for things which are not in harmony with the order of society. Investigating the alleys of various cities as representations of these hidden layers, might be a more contemporary interpretation of “Flâneur. An idea that one does not wander around the city simply for pleasure, but as a reflective exploration, analysis, and record of the flawed, distortions on the surface of the city. 
Here, the artist has chosen one of the most ubiquitous visual motifs, the “heart”, commonly used as a symbol of “like” on Instagram and Facebook. A representation of the deepest human emotion, accepting the risk of being stereotyped but also having difficulty escaping it’s evolving use and meaning.
On the other hand, the use of the heart to mark an area, also indicates other, deeper meanings: the desire to mark a location for it’s significance, or to record an event, or simply because someone wants to communicate their love of a particular place. Perhaps, drawing or carving a figure or letter on a tree or wall, transient and fluid moments are linked to eternity. A sign that may have originated from a sensation, or perhaps have been totally meaningless, without any connotation or denotation, such as the stone we trip over while walking. Apart from all the frivolity of such an instance, one has only visualized the “individuality” of the tripper and the mind provides a reward as a result of such self-recognition. This is a feature also present in photography, especially since mobile cameras have become widespread. Experiences seems to be recognized only when recorded with a camera. In other words, there are two instances of recognition: once when the person draws the heart graffiti has decided to record the experience of a space, and a second when the photographer later photographs it. Here, Zarnegar regards the “individuality” of a third instance by designing a game, where the audience roams through the gallery to seek their “heart” in the unknown alleys of the Eight Cities of the World*. All the moments of recording “individuality” are at once tied back together.
What seems different here is the artifical engineering of this third recognition, because the hearts are accidentally apportioned into days of the year. In other words, there is no specific obligation to assign a day -such as the birthday of one audience- to a heart image. This is simply the random logic of the game connecting them, and despite being aware of this nature, the audience continues to find their own identity in finding their day.
The game can be defined in such a way that, at a certain time and place, the rules of everyday life are abolished and new rules are established. In the game “You are here”, irregular things like the city, graffiti, the subconscious, and love are organized into unfamiliar encounters, allowing the artist to take advantage of the audience’s desire to be unique and trap him/her with the promise of his/her “uniqueness”. From the moment you enter regardless of the city and space, and everything else included in these pictures and graffiti, you crave the rules of the game. This carefully designed game holds your hand taking you from one stage to the other and leads you on until you are thrown into that “special moment”.
The challenge and the boundary between regularity and irregularity exist in several parts: random strolling and the freedom of the audience in the city versus regular routing and direction of the audience within the game; the unpredictability and ambiguity of the concept of love against the straightforwardness and simplicity of the stereotypes of heart; formless and boundless street graffiti against the precisely printed cubes and boundless space that the graffiti artists have chosen for their expression on the walls of the city against the structure imposed on the graffiti within the gallery.
Just as the dreamer moves through layers of ambiguity in a dream into the room of psychoanalysis, Monir brings the graffiti from its nested space within the city into the gallery. This is reductive and enlightening, like reminiscing and interpreting new dreams through each successive experience. This process diminishes ambiguity and brings to light multiple layers of interpretation.
In this project, urban routes and labyrinths are simplified and the stories that are carved from the subconscious of cities—perhaps from love, anger, sadness—are expanded on the empty walls of the gallery.Why do we always tolerate the horribleness of our dreams with these formations? Among these things, a ridicule can be observed with the sarcasm in “taking oneself too seriously”: We are invited to the very safe game of Monir looking for our affirmative “I”. Then, we are approved and bring home our own love in proper packages.
Monir Zarnegar, who was born in 1353 (1974) in Tehran, is an intermediary artist and designer who is active in Tehran and Toronto. She graduated from Tehran’s Azad University and holds a bachelor and master degrees in graphic design. Monir has worked internationally asan artist and designer. Her work, including graphic design, video, installation, and photography, has been featured inside and outside Iran and has won numerous international awards.

* Various city walls such as Toronto, Tehran, New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan, and Berlin

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