Red Light is a series of photographs of mosques in various stages of construction by Iranian artist Mehran Mohajer. Each image is coupled with a red traffic light and a digital display counting down the seconds until the light turns green. Although not obvious at first, the two sets of images are connected by the idea of waiting. “The central point for me was this feature of Tehran, the never-ending construction,” says Mohajer. “It always seems to take much longer than you expect and the feeling it gives you is that it’s never going to be finished.”
Obviously, this sense of slow progress is not restricted to the building of mosques, but Mohajer wanted to make a connection between sacred space and “a banal situation” – being stuck at a traffic light. The parallels between the two go further than his own sense of impatience. The artist manages to read into Tehran’s cityscape a particular kind of religious outlook. “We have this messianic way of thinking – always looking to the future, always waiting for someone to arrive,” says Mohajer.
The fact that Mohajer can create an analogy for this mentality in images as mundane as traffic lights and scaffolded domes points to his background as a student of linguistics. He has been “obsessed” with cityscapes since a student, and his photographs try to capture some kind of semiotic meaning in them. The series was photographed between 2006 and 2008. Since then, most of the traffic-light counters have been changed to Western numerals.
Red Light is part of a group show called Golden Gates presented by F&A Projects, Paris, from 20 October to 13 November.
Mehran Mohajer, Red Light 4, 2009
Mehran Mohajer, Red Light 5, 2009
Mehran Mohajer, Red Light 6, 2009
Mehran Mohajer, Red Light 2, 2009
Mehran Mohajer, Red Light 3, 2009