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Past  Exhibitions 

Artists / Scientists:

Stephen S. Young


Paul Kelly


Salem State University


Macro or Micro ?

Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar


Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art  August - 2015

Department of Geography, Tehran University  November - 2015

Tehran, Iran     



In 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.

Misinterpreting 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.

This 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?





Macro or Micro? image - Kavir Desert, Iran


Stephen Young with Iranian shopkeepers in Tehran


Exhibition at Sazmanab


Exhibition at Tehran University