Another innovation to compensate for cancelled shows, this online version of Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran was commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre as part of its Going Digital series. This series features artists who would have featured in the planned Going Global season on the stage.
Streamed live on both YouTube and Instagram, Rich Kids is performed by co-creator and writer Javaad Alipoor with Peyvand Sadeghian, and highlights the huge gap between rich and poor in Iran, together with the influence of technology on how the world is developing and how it will be viewed in the future.
Although younger millennials have grown up with social media spaces and smartphones, their explosion is a relatively new phenomenon in the last decade or so: photos are generated from every moment of existence and carefully curated to present a particular story and image.
Using various Instagram tags are inspiration, plus a short video of the son of Robert Mugabe pouring expensive champagne over his Rolex, Rich Kids tells the story of two young people, Hossain and Parivash, from a fatal car crash back through the events which led up to it. Events which the Iranian regime still wish to suppress and forget.
Climate change and geological space is addressed as we fill the world with plastic, concrete, discarded chicken bones and obsolete mobile phones: digital consumerism becoming a worldwide symbol of wealth and success. This is nothing new (as explained by the inclusion of a portrait by Gainsborough), but has become more immediate and in-your-face in recent years.
This is a show which both stimulates and frustrates its audience. You look and listen to multiple screens, bombarded by images, facts, and a history which goes back beyond the power of the Shah and his absolute faith in his divine right to rule. An Instagram feed has been carefully curated for the show which you scroll down as instructed, and characters hover on the edge of the story of the rich boy and the middle-class girl who #cantstopshopping.
With a sense of history speeding up just to the sheer amount of it being recorded in the new digiverse, Rich Kids invites us to consider how far we are away from seminal events of the past and veers off into unusual hashtags such as vaporware (utilising older technologies to create new sounds) and mallwave (fetishing disused shopping malls).
For the Rich Kids, there is little to do but shop, and drive, and take pictures which flaunt their wealth. In many ways they have replaced the regime their fathers and grandfathers despised and worked to overthrow, and it is hard to see what they contribute, positively, to the world around them.
Rich Kids has its final performance tomorrow, 1 July 2020, on Battersea Arts Centre’s YouTube channel and the #shoppingmallsintehran account on Instragram.