in my practice I borrow formal strategies of montage, allowing time to play an axis in the layering of images, video and audio In the site of installation.
I was born during the Iran-Iraq war and grew up in the aftermath of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, a part of the first generation to experience the Islamic system that followed. My family’s long-awaited immigration to the US occurred exactly one week after 9/11, arriving on one of the first flights to land in LAX after it reopened. The aspiration to leave behind a lifetime of turmoil and unstable political landscape for a promised “American Dream” was now met with yet another landscape of trauma and war, one where “terrorism” and “the Middle East” were to be used mostly in the same sentence. My studies have helped me to understand the socio-political history of this narrative, from within a country with its own long histories of colonial relations with the Middle East.
Today, as an artist, I am fascinated by the fact that contemporary life means that we all have a relationship to war or the threat of war, no matter how far from us it may be. As a result of our experiences and the representations of the media, contemporary life is often made paranoid, creating the sense of a split subjecthood that the spectacle of war produces. The focus of my practice is to investigate this contemporary Post-Colonialism as a political space in which to question hegemonic personal narratives.
Through my multi-disciplinary practice, I consider political and cultural identity as a site in which to play and struggle. My strategy originates in the feminist maxim, “the personal is political,” and its translation through modes of address that include audio, image and text, as mechanisms for social critique. My practice negotiates the physical and cultural gaps between my native Iran and my current home in the Americas, where I have lived for almost twelve years; a distance of space and time that I measure with small, nuanced gestures. I draw upon my own personal experiences and the paradox of existing between political realities, exploring questions of revolution, immigration, nationalism, and global power relationships as they assert themselves within the framework of the intimate domestic sphere.
This theme runs through my work, where the relationship between Iran and the U.S. has become an internalized oppression through foreign relations and history. As W.E.B. Du Bois talked about this toward the African American identity as having a “double consciousness,” “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”This double consciousness shapes my vision in which formally and conceptually I aim to suggest another state of being, outside of the binary.
In my practice I borrow formal strategies of montage, allowing time to play an axis in the layering of images, video and audio in the site of installation. I use each site as a place for montage, where history and the present moment are being layered and re-layered, and at times erased, through the imagery and sound of public and personal archives. The use of the “poor image” has become one of the most important methods within my practice, where the lack of resolution becomes a witness to the displacement of image. As Hito Steyerl describes in, “In the Defense of Poor Image,” “Obviously, this condition is not only connected to the neoliberal restructuring of media production and digital technology; it also has to do with the post-socialist and postcolonial restructuring of nation states, their cultures, and their archives. While some nation states are dismantled or fall apart, new cultures and traditions are invented and new histories created.”
My installation, Our Future is The Approaching Past (2012), includes two video projections, an audio component and a series of five photographs that form an archive of my family’s history, laced through with traces of Iranian political context. Together, they explore the past, present and future of the “state” in a time of globalization.
One of its video components, titled Two Americas Away (2012), is made from surveillance footage taken from a system installed in the home of my grandparents in Iran so that my mother could monitor and look after her own aging parents from here. Through the camera’s lens, we see an intimate scene, intended as a means of caring for loved ones while also mimicking military vision systems that monitor subjects from a distance, such as Long Range Surveillance units, drones and satellites. The piece also reveals the banality of daily life, invoking what I call “war-time waiting,” as ongoing threats of military action against Iran from the US and Israel persist and structure our temporalities. The glitches resulting from the time delay also testify to the migration of image.
The sound piece employs audio from a family cassette tape recorded and then recorded over, from 1978 to 1993. Dubbed over a tape originally holding revolutionary Iranian songs, we hear my mother teaching us, her children, the English language, and singing a Farsi fable. I have taken up the recording itself as a palimpsest of political and personal ideologies: the soft, encouraging voices of mother and child layered over music intended as soft-power propaganda. Within the site of the installation, the audio isn’t synced to either of the silent projected videos, yet fills the entire space, producing a dislocation that mirrors the sense of exile and diaspora. As Judith Butler explains “…both spatiality and location have to be reconceived once we consider departure from within, the dispossession that demands immobility. this seems to be the case for one who is newly and at once, contained and dispossessed in the very territory from which one both departs and arrives.”
The third part of the installation is a selection from my family’s photographic archives, which I have titled, What Would America/Iran do without Iran/America? (2012). Text is used to reveal the time and place of each photograph, as the dialogue between the images and text draw connections between personal memories and parallel political events back in the early 80s and the cultural assimilation of America in Iran in those recent years after the ’79 Islamic revolution.
My current body of work, Who Sings the Nation-State? (2013/ongoing), borrows its title from the recent book by Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak. I have been deconstructing national anthems of specific countries into compositions that reconstruct them as “love songs” between Iran, Israel, Iraq and the United States, extracted and rearranged from their national anthems in Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic and English. These hybrid “songs” emphasize the fragile construction of collective identities through nationalistic language of the anthem, while language becomes one way of maintaining control over who belongs and who does not belong. By recombining these anthems in this way, I attempt to signal a kind of agency that both contains how the political language of the anthems assimilates into the subjectivities of national subject, while I am exercising a power (agency) over them. Following this train of thought and in contrast to the efficacy of speech within the nation state, Butler wants to consider “what makes for a non-nationalist or counter-nationalist mode of belonging” (58-59). My goal is to stage performances based upon marginalized and diverse communities that shape our nation-state, who offer up examples of non-nationalist modes of belonging.
.Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York, Avenel, NJ: Gramercy Books; 1994
.Hito Steyerl, In Defence of Poor Image (e-flux Journal: 2009), http://www.e-flux.com/journal/in-defense-of-the-poor-image/
.Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging, Seagull Books, 2007
1984 Born in Tehran, IranLives and work in Los Angeles
2012 MFA, Photography and Related Media, California Institute of the Art
2007 BFA, Studio Art, University of California, Irvine
2014 “Blown Up Palm Trees” PØST, kamikaze shows
2013 “Two Americas Away” 18th Street Arts Center,
2012 “PTL (Part Time Lover)” Commonwealth & Council Gallery, Lo Angeles, CA
“Our Future Is the Approaching Past” Gallery D301, California Institute of the Arts
2011 “Corner” Gallery A402, California Institute of the Arts
Group Exhibitions, Performances, screenings
2014 “A Meerkat’s Whistle: Whistleblowers” Screening at 3 Day Awake
“Interpreters’ Guild” In collaboration with Ashley Hunt, Arcus Center for Justice, Kalamazoo.
“Subject vs Object #1” In Collaboration with Yelena Zhelezov, Made In L.A., Kchung TV
“Watchmen” Torrance Art Museum
“18is25” 18th Street Arts Center
“Pre/Cut” Screening, Los Angeles
Santa Monica Museum of Art, Auction
2013 “Mass Attack II” Torrance Art Museum , Los Angeles, CA
“Project Flower” Act II, Raid Projects , Los Angeles, CA
“Project Flower” Act I, Shulamit Gallery , Los Angeles, CA
“Project Flower” Act I, Our Living Room Cabaret, Los Angeles, CA
2012 “FTL (Full time Lover)” Co/Lab at Art Platform, Los Angeles
“Artist As Travelers” HBK University Gallery, Braunschweig, Germany
“Medicine Chest” (A survey of emerging LA Artist), Los Angeles CA
“mmxii” CalArts MFA 2012 Graduate show , L.A. Mart, Los Angeles CA
“From the Place Which One Speak” Main Gallery, California Institute of the Arts
2011 “Spread The Word” Auction to benefit the 826 LA writing program, Mark Moore Gallery, Culver City, CA
“MFA Mid-residency Group show” California Institute of the Arts
“GLAMFA” (Greatest Los Angeles MFA Exhibition), California State University, Long Beach, CA
2009 “Feminine” Presented by SoCiArts , Los Angeles CA
“The Flickering Light: Independent Films for Independent City-Films from the Iranian Diaspora”
2008 “Torrance Juried Art Exhibition” Selection by Gosia Wojas,
Seyhoun Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2007 “TEN” Selection by Karen Moss, UAG (University Art Gallery), University of California Irvine
“MEME” UAG( University Art Gallery), University of California, Irvine
2006 “The Look of Slaw” Selection by Julie Carson, University of California, Irvine
“Catalyst 4” University of California, Irvine
Lectures & Talks
2013 18th Street Arts Center, Artist Talk
2012 California Institute of the Arts, “The Work of War In Times of Art”, talk
LACE, “Can Artists Use Technology to Enable Communities ?” By SOC(i)AL:Freewave and UCLA IMLab, Panel
LACE, “ReVISIONS of LA” Workshop
2014 YoYoYo Grant
2013 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Nominee
2012 Bartman Fund, California Institute of the Arts
Finalist, Rijksakademie residency
2011 Finalist for Buetner Family Excellence in Art Scholarship
2008 Torrance Juried Exhibition, 1st place,Torrance CA
Publications and reviews
“Cultural Cross-Pollination: Project Flower”, KCET, ArtBound, Southern California Journalism, 2013, by Pilar Tompkins
“Part Time Lover, Full Time Lover”, Whitehot Magazine of cotemporary art, 2012
“Metta World Peace” (The Work of War in Times of Art), 2012
“Exit 168. Corner-Shagha Ariannia”, 2011
“Expressions/Impressions”, A Journal Published by UCI Center for Educational Partnership, 2007
L.A. Municipal Art Gallery Workshops for Shangri LA exhibitions 2014
Hancock Park Arts Center, 2012-current
Teaching Assistant, California institute of the Arts 2011-2012
ReVISIONS of LA Workshop Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, (LACE)
Cap Instructor, Community Arts Partnership (CAP) 2010-2011