Amy Khoshbin

I am a Brooklyn-based artist, rapper, and politician. My practice co-opts various forms of popular media to make space for connection, catharsis and social change. As an Iranian-American female, I am hyperaware of the xenophobia perpetuated in Western media to separate us and create a cultural landscape motivated by fear. I’m particularly sensitive to the portrayal of Middle Easterners as terrorists and the usage of this imagery to fuel fear-based legislation. I produce my own media and performances using humor and a handmade aesthetic to encourage empathy, to bring people together, and throw a counterpunch at the high-definition, profit-generating codes and signals that American audiences are accustomed to consuming.

My current practice directly responds to our political environment. Working with a collage-style multidisciplinary approach, I appropriate the language, symbols, and gestures found in Western media and weave alternative aesthetics such as Persian miniature painting, Afrofuturist science fiction, and Russian Constructivist imagery to build a new cultural perspective. Influenced by the ideology of the Situationist International movement, which advocated for fighting commercial culture with its own weapons, I co-opt popular media forms such as the political speech, science fiction film, and reality television, and use them as an alternative space to effect social change.

In my most recent body of work, Amy Khoshbin for City Council 2021, I attempt to bridge the political world with the art world to instigate dialogue and social change, similar to Tania Bruguera’s run for President of Cuba. My run is different from Tania’s—it is an actual run for the office of City Council member in District 39 of Brooklyn. I am using the structure and form of a political campaign to create research-based artwork intended to demystify the complex structures of government and to empower others in the art community to vote, run for office, and get involved. My campaign speeches and materials reflect my prediction that change in America will come through engaging all forms of media and disseminating a cultural narrative supporting intersectionality, diversity, and the power of the creative impulse. My latest speech, You Never Know, was given at The Whitney Museum of American Art, where I encouraged the audience to vote in the midterm primaries and have a group-catharsis through dancing and singing together.

You Never Know is a political speech turned rap dance-party exploring the culture of violence and fear in Western media. The project asks the question, “can political empowerment for change and liberating entertainment be the same thing?” I highly respect the history of rap music as an empowering form of expression for the Black community. I see rap music in 2018 as a universal way to connect with youth and motivate them towards political engagement, and use this medium as such in my work.

Another recent project I created to get youth interested in political dialogue is called Opposite of a Weapon. In the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I asked the question “What is the opposite of a weapon?” to people and kids all over the country, including at the Tanner Gun Show in Denver, CO. The answers I receive are incorporated in an ongoing body of work consisting of drawings and silkscreens in a cartoonish-style to encourage the public–specifically children–to conceptualize and discuss what a culture of non-violence and disarmament looks like.

Word on the Street (WOTS), another current body of work, explores the boundaries between art-making and protest, and attempts social change by using protest as an artistic medium for political expression. WOTS directly responds to the current political situation with original political and poetic felt banners designed by all-female artists and writers in collaboration with female refugee fabricators based in Texas. I created the original large-scale banners with poet Anne Carson for the 2017 Women’s March. Later I collaborated with my siblings’ arts collective, House of Trees, to curate a large-scale commission of original felt banners for Times Square Arts and The Watermill Center by Tania Bruguera, Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Wangechi Mutu, Laurie Anderson, A.M. Homes, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Each banner speaks to the political moment, creating an ongoing archive of urgent concerns. Times Square Arts commissioned reproductions, which are up on vinyl street pole banners and Bigbelly trash receptacles in Times Square until September 2018, subverting advertising space with the language of resistance. We are working on securing funds to commission original banners designed by our female refugee fabricators, as the inclusion of their voices is critical and timely given the border crisis and Muslim ban.

Alongside the WOTS banners, I host banner-making workshops called Workshop on the Street. These provide an inclusive space for the public to create their own wearable expressions with phrases and iconography made from colorful felt in the form of banners, signs, sashes, or capes. Felt is an intentional material choice, as it is a common material purchased cheaply in any fabric store, and used by most of us as children. Workshop on the Street engages the community in social action and encourages a physical creative response as an act of participatory democracy and as a way to re-connect with others and oneself.

The Myth of Layla (TMOL), is a multimedia, participatory performance about political ideology, celebrity-obsessed media, and an Iranian-American activist named Layla. The story is based on my personal history. TMOL is a Sci-Fi allegory set in a near future when a media conglomerate called The Network runs the US government and is at war with Iran. The leader of The Network is a reality show host who employs manipulative media tactics such as fear-of-the-Other and propaganda presented as reasonable safety-measures in PSAs. Written in 2015, TMOL serves as a cautionary tale about the American celebrity-obsession that got Trump elected. The Host invites Layla and audience members to become participants on the new reality show, Activists in Sexy Solidarity (ASS). When Layla’s father is accused of terrorism, Layla must decide between her political ideals, family, and dubious external forces. Viewers become part of the piece, captured by live cameras and screened during the performance and installation. I construct the world using poorly keyed green-screen video, and surreal, shoddily crafted costumes to peel back the layers of “reality” media.

EDUCATION

2009 New York University, MPS Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP)

2003 University of Texas at Austin, BA Convergent Media, BS Radio-Television-Film

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS AND PERFORMANCES

2018
Summer of Know, Performance, Guggenheim Museum, NY, NY (Upcoming)
You Never Know, Performance, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, NY
Artists Take the Street w/Tania Bruguera, Anne Carson, PEN World Voices Festival, NY, NY It is astonishing the lengths a person will go, Group Exhibition, VOLTA Art Fair, NY, NY
A Pressing Conference, Group Exhibition, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, NY, NY
Material Witness Witness Material, Group Exhibition, The Knockdown Center, Queens, NY
*I Pledge, Solo Exhibition, Kimmel Gallery at NYU, NY, NY

2017-18
Word on the Street: collaboration w/Anne Carson
Times Square Arts, NY, NY
The Watermill Center, Water Mill, NY
Socrates Sculpture Park, NY, NY
Leila Heller Gallery, NY, NY

2017
PULSE PLAY, Group Show, PULSE Art Fair, Miami Beach, FL
Stand Up Stand Down, Performance, The High Line, NY, NY
Archival Alchemy, SAWCC 20th Anniversary Group Show, Abrons Arts Center, NY, NY Whitney Houston Biennial, Group Exhibition, 325 West Broadway Gallery, New York, NY BODY/HEAD, Group Exhibition, Field Projects Gallery, New York, NY
Cosmic Joke, Performance, Safe Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
CATCH 73, Performance, The Invisible Dog Arts Center, Brooklyn, NY
Nasty Women Group Exhibition, The Knockdown Center, Queens, NY
Arteries Festival, Performance, Van Alen Institute, NY, NY
…far from the deathless gods, Group Exhibition, Elysium Gallery, Berlin, DE

2016
The Myth of Layla, Performance, NURTUREart, Brooklyn, NY
*The Myth of Layla, Solo Exhibition and Performance Series, Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ Scheherazade Project with PUBLIQuartet, National Sawdust, Brooklyn, NY
STATUESQUE in collaboration with Erica Magrey, Abrons Art Center, NY, NY
Pseudo, Anti, and Total Dance, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA C∆N-D Moves in collaboration with Michael Clemow, Performance, National Arts Gallery, NY, NY
C∆N-D In the Club with Michael Clemow, Performative Installation, Dixon Place, NY, NY

2015
C∆N-D + DRELLA, Performance Series, River to River Festival, New York, NY
RAGE/RELEASE, Performance, Invisible Dog Arts Center, Brooklyn, NY Activists in Sexy Solidarity, Performance, The Watermill Center, Water Mill, NY
CΔN-D, Performance for AUNTS Residency, ACE Hotel, New York, NY
Absolute Zero, Group Exhibition, Academic Gallery, Long Island City, NY

2014
mantrap, The Glad, Glasgow, Scotland
Approaching -273.15, Group Exhibition curated by OTO, Radiator Arts Gallery, Long Island City
;(, Performance, The Brick Theater, Brooklyn, NY
CΔN-D, Performance, JACK, Brooklyn, NY

2013
PROTEST, Screening, Eric Harvie Theatre, Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Canada
And Um Yeah, Performance, Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
And Um Yeah, Performance, Silent Barn, Brooklyn, NY

2012
little feast, Group Exhibition, Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Letter to Obama, Group Exhibition, Experiment Station, Chicago, IL
How do you feel about the holidays, Group Exhibition, Busboys and Poets, Washington DC

2011
PRACTICE, The Stone curated by Laurie Anderson, New York, NY
One Foot In Each World, Group Exhibition, Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
PRACTICE (Chapter 2), Performance, MMix Interactive Arts Festival, New York, NY

2010
Square Root of Love, Group Exhibition curated by Karen Finley, Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY
Dream Squawk, Performance, MakerFaire, Queens, NY
Chronotronic, Performative Installation, Monkeytown, Brooklyn, NY

2009
Power Bike Parade, Performative Installation, DUMBO Arts Festival, Brooklyn, NY
Power Bike Parade, Performative Installation, Art in Odd Places Festival, New York, NY
Rust Fest, Group Exhibition, McDonough Museum, Youngstown, OH

2008
NIME, Group Exhibition, Exit Art, New York, NY
Algorithmic Sound Art, Group Exhibition, Diapason Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

2007
inside/out, Performance, The Kitchen, New York, NY
Perception and Technology, Group Exhibition, The TANK, New York, NY

2006
O, Dancing Bears!, Group Exhibition, Valley Forge Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Period, Group Exhibition, Blanton Art Museum, Austin, TX

2005
Laying the Foundation, Screening, South by Southwest Film Festival, Austin, TX

2004
Laying the Foundation, Screening, Cinematexas International Film Festival, Austin, TX

PRIZES AND AWARDS

2017 Winner of Franklin Furnace Fund Grant
2016 Winner of Rema Hort Mann Foundation Artist Community Engagement Grant
2015 Winner of Sphinx MPower Artist Grant with Janinna Norpoth and PUBLIQuartet
2015 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant Nominee
2015 Creative Capital On Our Radar Recipient and Finalist for Creative Capital Performing Arts Grant 2014 IDEA Grant Recipient, Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada
2007 Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Study Scholarship, NYU, New York, NY
2005 Audience Award, South by Southwest Film Festival, Austin, TX
2004 Audience Award, Cinematexas International Film Festival, Austin, TX

RESIDENCIES AND FELLOWSHIPS

2018 Anderson Ranch Arts Center Artists-in-Residence 2017-2018, Snowmass Village, CO 2014-17 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency, New York, NY
2016 Mana Contemporary BSMT Residency Curator + Participant, NJ
2015 The Watermill Center Independent Residency, Water Mill, NY
2014 Banff Centre for the Arts Independent Residency, Banff Canada
2013 Team Effort! Artist Residency, Glasgow, Scotland
2010-12 Resident Artist, ITP at NYU in Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY

PUBLICATIONS

2018 VECTOR Artist Journal, “Not Just Words,” Edited by Javier Barrios and Peter Gregorio 2017 Critical Correspondence, “Artists And Equity,” Edited by Tess Dworman
2016 Emergency INDEX, Vol. 5 “Activists in Sexy Solidarity,” Edited by Yelena Guzman
2010 Computer Music Journal, “Power Bike Parade,” Volume 34, MIT Press

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

2017 Vanity Fair “For Protesters, Doing It for the ’Gram,” Hilary Weaver
New York Times, “Archival Alchemy on the LES,” Holland Cotter
Artforum, “Word on the Street,” Michael Wilson
Art 21, “Women Artists Bring Protest Messages to Times Square,” Lindsey Davis
Flaunt Magazine, “Word on the Street: Reproduction of Women’s March Banners,” William Simmons
Artnet, “Feel-Good Slogans in Times Square,” Sarah Cascone
NYMag “Top Performance Picks” Cassidy Dawn Graves
The Art Newspaper, “Female artists get the word out in Times Square,” Victoria Stapley-Brown Hyperallergic, “A Weeklong Festival Devoted to Surprise,” Benjamin Sutton
Art F City, “Come See The Myth of Layla,” Michael Anthony Farley

2016 VICE’s The Creators Project, “Iranian-American Tackles Big Brother with Art,” Kara Weisenstein
Hyperallergic Art RX, “Dystopian Reality Show,” Jillian Steinhauer

2015 New York Times, “River to River Festival Heads for a Grand Finale,” Jun 25, 2015

2014 Widewalls, “Dream Squawk and Shadow Puppet Sequencer,” Apr 23, 2014

2012 Glamour Magazine, “Coin Slot Detector Knows You Show Too Much!” Apr 2012

2010 RTVE Spain Broadcast, “Nerd Art,” Jan 4, 2010

2008 Make Magazine, “Dream Squawk,” Dec 2008
Craft Magazine, “Buttcrack Detector,” Oct 2008

ARTIST TALKS, LECTURES, WORKSHOPS

2017 Amy Khoshbin for Hands Off Our Revolution, International Center for Photography, NY, NY Archival Resistance curated by Saisha Grayson, Abrons Arts Center, NY, NY
Amy Khoshbin and Social Practice, The New School, NY, NY
Humor and Politics, Hunter College, NY, NY
Intersectional Feminism and Protest, School of Visual Arts, NY, NY REAL TALK/KIP TALK, Abrons Arts Center, NY, NY
Life as a Political Artist, NYU, Tisch School of the Arts
2016 Amy Khoshbin and Hybrid Media, NYU, Performance Studies LADY Art: Talks, New Women Space
Exploring Identity with Green Screen, The Watermill Center
2015 Art and Trauma Workshop with Karen Finley, Guggenheim Museum
2014 Performance and Politics Lecture, Guggenheim Museum
2009-10 Video Art Lecture Series, Bronx Museum of Art

COLLABORATIONS

2016-18 Anne Carson: Word on the Street
2009-15 Laurie Anderson: Heart of a Dog, Habeas Corpus, Delusion, Vivid Live
2009-15 Karen Finley, The Jackie Look Performance