Spaces Of Hope

As part of its initiative to bring innovative and contemporary global art to Boston, the Greenway Conservancy has commissioned the Tehran-based Iranian visual artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo to present a mural on the Greenway wall at Dewey Square Park. Known primarily for his gigantic trompe l’oeil murals with surrealistic undertones painted in Tehran between 2004 and 2010, Ghadyanloo’s art fulfills the chief objective of the conservancy: to engage citizens in the exceptionally multi-cultural city of Boston in a meaningful dialogue with global cultures.

Every day at a busy intersection on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, nestled between the high-rises and modern glass facades, Bostonians observe an exercise in perspectival illusion on a monumental scale. A network of interconnected rooms, corridors and staircases are revealed within the walls of the building; architectural space is conceptually expanded and collapsed simultaneously to allow the impossible to appear. Within this surreal scene, hundreds of lifesize figures wait in a long line snaking in and out of the building, winding through geometric shapes cut into the walls. Men, women and children of every race stand together, each holding a red balloon aloft. Impossibly veiled in shadow as they move through the space, the figures approach a large oculus at the building’s apex; from there, sunlight bathes those lucky enough to have reached the top as they gaze at an enormous red balloon escaping into the sky beyond. The scene takes you, momentarily, into the uncanny dreamscapes of Dali and Magritte, or the bizarre circumstances depicted in Kafka’s novels. More informed viewers might even think of what the French philosopher Michel Foucault famously called ‘heterotopias’ or ‘enacted utopias’, places simultaneously banal and perplexing to what is considered normative.

The ambivalence of the scene captures an important quality of Ghadyanloo’s work; his unique perspective on the nuanced nature of hope, fear and uncertainty about the future. Gazing upwards as one, the figures in the mural move forward with purpose; it is impossible to know how many have come before them and how many wait behind. Will they reach their destination? Will they escape the labyrinthine darkness they are trapped in and move into the light? What is waiting for them beyond? Though offering them the chance of escape, the red balloons could burst at any moment. Drawing inspiration from his upbringing in Tehran and the local context of Boston, Ghadyanloo is interested in opening a window to the universal experiences and feelings that people all over the world share. His murals are part of the fabric of the city, creating a dialogue with the people who surround them as their daily experiences become part of his expansive composition. His bright colors and universal signifiers of light and shadow communicate across continents, weaving a narrative between our dreams that binds us together in hope, even in dark times.