As part of their supercool series on music, uncomsuption posted a link today to the site cassette tape culture, a clearinghouse of upcyling ideas for old tapes. As it happens, I’ve been thinking a lot about cassettes lately—in the context of what is happening now in Iran.
tapes. tapes, tapes
I saw a great documentary once—on TV of course so I have no idea what it was called or how to track it down again—about new technologies and human rights. It ended on this very upbeat note saying that little camcorders were going to put an end to human rights violations because anyone could sneak one into a scuffle or stoning, turning every citizen into a potential reporter.
Behind every modern uprising, the documentary postured, lay a technological advancement. Leading up to the ’79 revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini built his following by recording propaganda speeches on cassettes that were smuggled into Iran and passed around from person to person. Tienanmen Square was the fax revolution. And since then we have seen the text message and cell phone camera equivalents around the world. And here we are, 30 years after the Islamic Revolution, learning the true value of new media.
“So you know what Twitter is, now, right?” I asked my father on the phone this morning. He lives in Tehran.
“Of course,” he said. “Hillary used it to send us a message.”
“And you know how it works?”
“BBC and Voice of America have been telling us how it works.”
So there you have it. Last week, he needed help to open his webmail account. This week, my dad understands the political implications of Twitter. And more importantly, my generation understands how to use it. And how YouTube and Facebook and camera phones and text messages all work.
Like everyone else I know, with or without family on the front lines, I am glued to the internet: hungry for any scrap of information or better yet context to the post-election melee and awed by the bravery of those on the streets.
Browsing these nostalgic reimaginings of cassettes makes me want to channel this nervous energy into an art project: a giant sculpture of the Ayatollah made of old cassettes with tangled strands of tape to represent his imposing eyebrows. It would have a sound element, this multimedia work of mine, a warbly cassette recording of Khomeini’s speech to the women who participated in the revolution (thanking them kindly for their participation and asking them politely to resume their places as subservient members of society). And I would call the piece “Be careful what you wish for.”