In Going Back and Forth, my biggest challenge was to immerse my audience in the notions of navigation and traveling, identity shifts and constructions, and mixed languages. As a result, my thesis show became a reflection the core of my artistic research in my MFA program. The installation consists of 12 bodies (six pairs) of life-size photo plate lithography, which have been suspended from the ceiling of the gallery at eye-level. Each pair is made out of two self-portraits, both of which are in a seated position, with the faces looking at opposite directions. In one of the portraits, I am wearing a floral scarf (Hijab), a black long dress, a black long-sleeve shirt, black jeans, and black boots, and I am fixing my scarf. This portrait has been printed in black ink and it represents me before immigration. In the other portrait, I am wearing a red top, a black skirt, and I am barefoot. I have red nail polish on my toe nails and I am braiding my hair. This image has been printed with red ink. This image represents my version of after immigration. All six pairs are based on these two opposing portraits. In the Going Back and Forth installation, the same two self-portraits are repeated in each pair. However, through collaging, mono-print, and stitching threads onto the works I aim to turn each pair into a distinct conversation between portraits. I have made each pair convey its own unique story, with the group of works converging into a single cohesive narrative. Alongside the handmade prints, Going Back and Forth has a sound component, which is the same sound piece from The Traveller installation; a repeating stream of my voice in Farsi and English intertwined and weaved together, while I read part of a famous Persian poem called The Traveller from Sohrab Sepehri. As the poem engages in depictions of distance, emptiness, and sorrow, this sound component is an effective signifier for presenting the confusion and disorientation of identity, which result from experiencing simultaneous lives and languages, and helps to complete the concept of multiple identities in the handmade prints. My interest with this installation is to convey the existence of simultaneous states of identities in an individual as a result of migration. Specifically, I target the dialogues between these identities and their various interactions. I attempt to demonstrate how these different facets ultimately stem from the same roots but diverge significantly; how they hang on to each other while apparently growing apart, and how they deeply influence each other. In this state of being, the borders of past and present selves are constantly changing, shifting, constructing, replacing, and reconstructing as the immigrant physically or virtually goes back and forth between the moments, memories, and places in her host and home countries. As Romain Gary, the French novelist, questions in his book titled the Exploration of Transnational Identity, “How many identities make one?” Going Back and Forth proposes that one’s identities are not abandoned or replaced by new identities, rather, they are woven together to become something new.
Location: Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary. (August-September 2016)
Photo Credit: Mazieh Mosavarzadeh