Michael Jackson Motorcade (2012)

6 min 7 sec (excerpt)Single channel / Digital Video / Colour / Silent

"Michael Jackson Motorcade is a response to recent political events. The social unrest around Iran’s disputed elections of June 2009 offered the promise of political change. Not since the revolutionary events thirty years prior did the streets of Azadi Square, ‘Freedom’ Square fill with Iranian revolutionaries demanding democratic reform. With conventional news sources censored, social media sites, such as twitter, allowed protesters to organise and garner international support. Millions of Iranians living abroad, who left Iran post 1979, watched their homeland once again experience political rebellion. International news agencies used social media to stream real time information taken by Iranian civilians witnessing the events. The media coined it the ‘Twitter revolution.’ This stream of coverage was cut short, however, by Michael Jackson’s death, which dominated Western news thereafter. Not since the death of Princess Diana had a celebrity’s passing created such a media spectacle.

As with Iranian political unrest, the documentation of Jackson’s death was distinctive due to advances in mobile technology and social media. Asdollah-Zadeh film shows a dull yet hypnotic stream of black cars, compiled from YouTube footage, reflecting the hysteria associated with celebrity deaths. Meanwhile, anyone outside Iran had no media coverage of internal political events there during the bereavement period. Iranian twitter feeds, which had previously dominated consciousness, were overrun by the news of Michael Jackson’s death and its aftermath.

Michael Jackson Motorcade is a collection of videos taken by pedestrians on the motorcade route filming from their digital cameras and cell phones. Also collected is footage from TV News stations filming the motorcade from helicopters and bridges.

The civil unrest in Iran’s disputed elections of June 2009 saw many iconic images battling for media attention such as Neda Agha Sultan’s death against Michael Jackson’s abrupt death. The Iranian world watched as one celebrity’s death was given more importance than an entire country.  Asdollah-Zadeh states “That single event has changed our perceptions of what we see contemporary Iranian society to be, a modern day Diaspora of the 20th century. The region is at a critical crossroads and given the complex nature of Iranian society it is unpredictable what may happen next.”

Text written by Zara Sigglekow. Taken from the essay Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh in Globalising Wall (2013); for the exhibition Globalising Wall.

Other works by Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh

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