Artists / Scientists:
Macro or Micro ?
Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar
Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art August - 2015
Department of Geography, Tehran University November - 2015
2008 I (Stephen Young) was at the International Geographical Union meeting in
Tunisia and I befriended a geographer from Iran. I was surprised to find that he
was more similar to me than many of my American colleagues. I should not have
been so surprised, however, this is a common mistake where we misinterpret the
unfamiliar. We mistake the micro (single characteristic) for the macro (the
whole population). Ever since that encounter I have wanted to capture that
mistake in an art exhibition, and finally it is here: Macro
or Micro? Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar.
the Unfamiliar is widespread. Bill O’Reilly, a popular news commentator in the
United States recently said “The reason I said
that Robert Bergdahl looks like a Muslim is because he
looks like a Muslim.”
Robert Bergdahl is a Christian, but the reason why Mr. O’Reilly thinks that he
is a Muslim is because Mr. Bergdahl has a long beard. When I tell people that I
will be going to Iran, many have told me that I should grow a beard! Please see
the photo below of me with two Iranians - we look similar because of our
mustaches, not beards. Misinterpreting
the Unfamiliar can be amusing – grow a beard. But it can also be
dangerous when large groups of people misinterpret each other.
exhibition was held at the Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art and at Tehran
University. We ask the viewer to explore what they see, and challenge them
to determine if what they are seeing is on a macro-scale or on a micro-scale.
Our intent is for the viewers to have fun in determining which
images are Macro and which are Micro. A drop of molten iron or the expansive
Iranian desert (below)? The answers might be quite surprising. We
then ask the viewers to think about the broader world and what unfamiliar things
might they be misinterpreting?