Amir Baradaran: mirror, mirror, rear-view mirror
New York-based artist (and former Montrealer) Amir Baradaran is about to drive taxi customers out of their comfort zone as his videos periodically interrupt the Taxi TV programming. The project, titled Transient, will display footage of different taxi drivers’ eyes through their rear view mirror. That “basic representation of the driver” as the artist calls it, will try to break down the tension between the Big Apple cab driver and customer inside 6,300 taxis from September 9th to 15th.
“The yellow cab is a cultural icon that immediately represents New York,” explains Baradaran to NIGHTLIFE via phone. “Yet the drivers inside the cabs are utterly invisible. The cab truly separates the living space between the driver up front, and the customer in the back." A separation caused by ignorance or tension. According to Baradaran, the cab drivers fall victim to prejudice, as most customers feel cheated by cabs, even though it usually takes three quarters of a day for a driver to actually begin making money.
Not only that, but they are prone to attacks, from stabbings to insults. The recent stabbing by a young man who was irritated by a driver he considered to be Muslim is, in Amir Baradaran’s words, “only the tip of the iceberg.” According to him, cab drivers, because of discriminatory bathroom policies in New York, show a higher percentage of kidney problems than the rest of the population. They are also subjected to the stereotype of non-proper voyeurs. In short, the artist talks of an inferior social class where the taxi drivers represent “a lower calibre” of individual than the rest of New York.
“I hope to get something happening with this,” continues the artist. “I really am providing a wide canvas. I don’t want the audience leaving thinking their job is done, by having given them solutions or answers. The audience will see the glare of the taxi driver that looks back at them. So they’ll be arriving at their own conclusions.” Those conclusions will also be caught on tape, as customers will be filmed getting out of the cabs. “This whole project will come full circle with people’s reactions.” The idea is that people should share their experience, comment it, online, through forums, to get people talking about this situation. “In this cab ride, the taxi is the actual journey.”
Amir Baradaran’s work is eclectic and varied. His abstract art paintings have tackled gender issues. In March 2010, he offered a counter-performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York when legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic was giving her own special show called “The Artist is Present”. Amir Baradaran’s performance, titled “The Other Artist is Present” offered a cultural exchange to Abramovic’s all-too-silent performance. Yet he sees this video project as a “natural continuation” of his artistic expression.
“I go from the concept I have in mind and then I find the medium to better express it,” says Baradaran. And because he seeks to express the problem of the dual existence lived inside a taxi, he asks, “what better way of doing this than in a cab?”
From September 9 to 15, in New York taxis | amirbaradaran.com