Disorientation

As a newcomer to Canada, I feel as if I am being pulled between two different places, while I am connected to both. In fact, I feel as though I am truly attached to neither. Research on immigrant identity and place indicates that identities are capable of changing through the act of migration (Antonsich, 2010). There are different ways in which an immigrant is connected to different places. The sense of place is built upon everyday experience and subjective feelings. A mixture of these experiences and feelings can be so intense that it becomes a central element in the construction of an individual’s identity (Massey, 1995). In my work, I am eager to visualize how immigrants live in the host country physically, while their hearts “breathe in the home country virtually”. As a result, immigrants are unsure of where they belong (Gilmartin & Migge, 2015). My first solo installation in the University of Calgary, D is o r ienta ti o n, was my first step in exploring the notion of simultaneity in the sense of places and moments. D is o r ienta ti o n consisted of 15 abstract drawings of my daily impressions as a newcomer living in-between two cultures. The drawings were placed on the gallery floor, connected with white chalk lines, which showed a street map of my daily commute to school. In the corner of the gallery, a laptop played a muted Skype video of me and my best friend in Iran chatting, accompanied by the sounds of my footsteps walking from my studio in U of C to my house. One of my goals for this installation was to create a place within a space for my viewers, by combining different layers of materials and conceptual ideas. The process of making the D is o r ienta ti o n installation was parallel to my struggle in overcoming the feeling of being dislocated and displaced after moving to Calgary. D is o r ienta ti o n started with observing and investigating the new environment and its people, and then compiling different photos of my everyday life in Calgary. At the same time, I was saving the photos of Tehran and my home there, which my sister and parents kept sending to me. As I walk in Calgary’s streets, talk to my friends, speak English, go grocery shopping alone, and cook for myself, I am still attached to my hometown Tehran with a hidden thread. This thread remains connected by the blurry or vivid memories that I carry everywhere with me, and by the use of the Internet which makes those moments more than just memories; it makes them present. It is as if I am living in more than one moment and place at the same time. I am struggling to adapt myself to my present life. Concurrently, I am aware of much of what happens in my homeland. D is o r ienta ti o n was for me a key to keeping the balance between my present and past.

 

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