Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls of Tehran
Writer: Javaad Alipoor
Co-creators: Javaad Alipoor and Kirsty Housley
Lennox Theatre, Riverside
January 22-23, 2022
The often funny but far more often frightening Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls of Tehran is a combination of digital theatre and live Instagram feed streamed via YouTube.
While the sheer amount of information is overwhelming, and the switching from computer screen to phone screen is at times dizzying, both simulate the kind of world we have created for ourselves and which we hail as greatly advanced technologically.
“Why then do people everywhere feel that ‘things’ are ending?” ask performers Javaad Alipoor and Peyvand Sadeghian. The world has ended before they say, pointing to the example of the Aztec civilisation. Once the Spanish “discovered”, invaded and conquered the Aztecs, the particular order they had placed on their world and which they assumed to be long-lasting, came to an end.
From this a segue to present day Iran is readily made. To older conservative Iranians the behaviour of the children of a wealthy Iranian elite as exhibited in the Instagram account “Rich Kids of Tehran” would suggest that the world as they understood it had ended. Entitlement, conspicuous consumption and a life without meaning other than self-advertisement has usurped the values of modesty, charity and belief.
Beginning with a high-speed crash in a new yellow Porsche which killed Hossein, a young Iranian “princeling” and his downtown social climber girlfriend, Alipoor and Sadeghian “dig” backwards seeking to place the event in its broadest context. While the crash was probably coke-fuelled, why did the girl, Parivash feel that massive acceleration on a boulevard was the way “to carve out one moment when she [felt] really alive”.
The destruction of the old Muslim world, in fact, began with the Western need for oil, with commerce and American support of the grandiose ambitions of the Shah, as the end of the Aztec world began with the Spanish desire for gold. And so, Alipoor and Sadeghian build up to asking, has there ever been a time in human history when commerce didn’t come first?
They offer Gobekli Tepe in South-Eastern Turkey, constructed by hunter-gatherers 6,000 years before Stonehenge, which German archaeologist, Klaus Schmidt believes upends the conventional view of civilisation as starting with farming communities. In this case, he believes civilisation started with the temple, the sacred and the cosmic, and farming followed.
However, it is not until our own current geological age that human activity has completely dominated the earth and climate – ceaselessly consuming and ceaselessly trashing.
We are reminded that our phones and our chicken bones will remain as techno-fossils for thousands of years beyond the Anthropocene as will the concrete sediment of shopping malls constructed by Hossein’s father, already on their way to becoming geological markers for the perusal of future archaeologists. For this reason, technology – the technology we are using to view the Rich Kids – is complicit in the creation of an entitlement to consume which in itself can never satisfy it.