For three straight nights in January, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum turned itself inside out, using its front façade as a gallery wall for a projected exhibition in solidarity with the women of Iran. Titled after the originally Kurdish slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom,” the public display was centered on the women-led revolution against the draconian gender-based discrimination exacted by Iran’s Islamic Republic. According to Human Rights Activists in Iran, over 19,000 protesters have been detained, over 500 have been killed, and 111 are currently facing the death penalty following the state-sanctioned murder of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa (Zhina) Amini.

From January 26 through 28, images of 30 artworks by mostly Iranian artists were projected on the Asian Art Museum from 6pm to 10pm thanks to a joint effort between MOZAIK Philanthropy and ArtRise Collective. After the sun had set, the projected rotation of images cycled above the entrance of the museum, illuminating and activating the scene for dozens of participants and passersby. The works spanned a variety of media, from film segments and animations to photography, illustration, and collage work, showcasing the diversity of artmaking and image production that supplements a revolution.

“Women Life Freedom in Persian Miniature Paintings” (2022) by an anonymous Iranian artist, 1080px by 1920px video animation (photo courtesy the Asian Art Museum)

MOZAIK Philanthropy, a nonprofit organization, has spent over a decade securing financial support for grassroots organizations across California and the country for provocative, art-aligned initiatives addressing a myriad of social and environmental issues. Having premiered at the Asian Art Museum, ArtRise Collective was developed to amplify the intersectional nature of the artwork and revolution tactics utilized by the civilians of Iran during this revolution through curated public art projects.

YouTube video
Video capture of the projections and live reactions through ArtRise Collective

The works were presented anonymously out of interest in protecting the involved artists within and beyond Iran’s borders. The public projection came to fruition in conjunction with a virtual exhibition through MOZAIK’s fifth annual Future Art Awards. MOZAIK issued an emergency open call for artist submissions pertaining to the revolution’s message of “Woman, Life, Freedom,” prompting over 500 contemporary artists to apply. A jury selected 50 artists for the exhibition, 30 of which were included in the projection series.

According to MOZAIK’s executive director, Keely Badger, 60% of the participating artists are from Iran, and over 80% of them identified as women.

“It’s powerful when we can bring these kinds of artworks outside of our museum to share with the wider public — especially timely, relevant, and deeply moving ones like ‘Women Life Freedom,'” Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu said in a statement. “My hope is that these kinds of community-based projects provide the solace, the strength, and the sense of solidarity we all need right now.”

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...