The historical lineage of photographic representations of the rooftop in Iran, as keyed to three pivotal, modern moments — the 2009 elections, the 1979 revolution, and the 1953 coup — demonstrates how the roof functions as a space from which attempts by Iranian women to reorder, contest, and invert political relations through sound have been recurrently staged. This paper argues that representations from within this photographic lineage constitute a productive political transition between sonic and visual regimes; one that is actually enabled by the unsettling quality of silence made uniquely perceptible, or rendered singly, in the ambivalent vision of photography. Consequently, the images here considered problematize and expand Jacques Rancière’s theorization of the aesthetic formation of politics by questioning what might be accomplished politically in the failure to represent, proposing the idea that imaging silence in the midst of turbulent noise might engender a political representation of a different order. Of primary interest to this argument are two works completed in 2009 (Pietro Masturzo’s 2009 World Press Photo of the Year, “From the Rooftops of Tehran, June”, and Shirin Neshat’s multimedia adaptations of the surrealist Farsi novella Women Without Men), each of which formalize the way in which the specific setting of the rooftop, as something we might call, following Michel Foucault, a “heterotopic” site, activates this relationship of (in)audibility and political representation.
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