Last month’s Awesome Pittsburgh grant was awarded to Nima Dehghani and Behzad Tabibian, for their winsome Kiss for Peace! Project. It seemed particularly well-timed for the holidays; the project promotes peace, love and hope—ideas which are especially inspirational between the end of an old year and the start of a new one.
Nima is an artist, director and playwright who is currently enrolled in the MFA program at CMU. Behzad Tabibian is a Master of Information Science student at the University of Pittsburgh. Their goal? To reduce misunderstanding and bring people in Iran and the United States closer together.
The project asks both Iranian and American citizens to post photos of themselves blowing kisses. On November 4, the anniversary of the 1979 embassy takeover in Tehran, Nima and Behzad used their web site and Facebook page to motivate readers to blow a kiss and post the photo. “Come on – 34 years of hostility is enough. Let’s move on,” the site declares. To show their willingness to overcome a history of hostile relations, participants added personal messages of friendship. The site enthusiastically received more than 300 pictures in two days from Iranians and Americans, including sentiments such as:
- “Let’s start a new era with a kiss”
- “Iranian people love American people”
- “After 30 years of distrust now it’s time to shake hands”
The mutual affection which was visually revealed made a huge impact; the story was picked up by several international news agencies including the BBC. In fact, more than 168,000 people have visited its site since the launch.
“Promoting peace and mutual understanding between the people of Iran and the U.S. is both smart and downright awesome. Kiss for Peace! is a successful online project and this public performance invites Pittsburghers to participate in a timely political dialogue,” says former Awesome Pittsburgh Trustee Ayanah Moor.
This public performance component is part of a broader project called Netformance, in which political issues are taken out of their conventional context and infused with a fresh perspective dependent entirely on user participation.
Explains Dehghani, “In light of Pittsburgh’s long history in embracing creative art works, we would like to project images on a city building, to invite observers and pedestrians of Pittsburgh to participate in real time and post their photos (their kisses!) on the website which then will be projected back on the building. With enough public participation, the campaign could receive wide media coverage and to help create a more positive political atmosphere for the two countries to resolve their differences and move towards a warming of relations.”
Netformance places audience at the heart of an art work and looks to use innovative technology in an effort to have people’s opinions heard. The founders are looking for an appropriate building location for the project; they are currently considering Bakery Square, Market Square, Station Square, the cultural district or downtown as potential spaces. You can follow their current project, “Letters from Iran,” at http://letters.netformance.org/janejohn?lan=en