Over the weekend, more than 300 volunteers headed to Roosevelt Island to become part of a large-scale art installation by international artist JR. The volunteers gathered to form the image of flowing hair at a larger-than-life portrait of sixteen-year-old Iranian activist Nika Shakarami. Shakarami was killed during protests in Iran in September. JR’s installation is part of Eyes on Iran, a series of works at Four Freedoms Park meant to draw attention to the upcoming vote to remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Hair has become a significant symbol in the fight for freedom for Iranian women. In protest of the deaths of Nika Shakarami and Mahsa Amini, another young girl who died while under the custody of the morality police, female protesters have been setting fire to their headscarves and cutting their hair. In JR’s installation, hundred of volunteers were used to create the image of dark flowing hair that could be seen from above as the crowd gathered and walked across the lawn at Four Freedoms Park.
As part of the U.N. Initiative 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a handful of the Eyes on Iran installations were activated this past weekend. In addition JR’s participatory work, Eyes in the Sky sent billboards flying into the air above the City skyline. The billboards featured art by Hank Willis Thomas and Mahvesh Mostala that symbolized “the eyes of the world on the Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on the protesters in Iran.” Iranian artists Sheida Soleimani, Aphrodite Désirée Navab, Z, Icy and Sot, Shirin Neshat, Sepideh Mehraban, and Shirin Towfiq also have work featured in the Four Freedoms Park installation.
All of the pieces featured in the campaign “are focused on the power of collective sight,” with eyes trained on the United Nations Building which sits across the water from Roosevelt Island. The eyes signify the world’s attention on Iran and the UN in the lead-up to the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women vote on whether to revoke the Islamic Republic of Iran’s membership on December 14. Throughout the park, visitors will see a giant eye on the steps leading to the lawn, bricks inscribed with the names of protesters who have been arrested or killed by the Iranian morality police, scarves flowing in the wind between the trees, and other site-specific installations. Eyes on Iran will be on view through January 1, 2023.
Next, check out 10 Secrets of Four Freedoms Park