In my project The Traveler, I sought effective ways of further materializing the simultaneity that surrounds me, here particularly through the use of language as a newcomer. The Traveller involves combining the predominant languages of Calgary and Tehran—English and Farsi—in my works. This body of work contains two components: one is a sound piece containing intertwining voices in Farsi and English which envelopes the gallery’s atmosphere; and the other is a collection of 20 pillows which are covered with hand-printed and hand-dyed pillow cases, scattered around the gallery floor, with dim lighting on them. Here, language is the place of return, the warm fabric of a memory, along with the insisting call from a far-away home. As author George Robertson notes: “But, here also, there, and everywhere, language is the place of change, an ever-shifting ground” (1994). Language brings with it the sense of belonging and memory; it is what surrounds us in our thoughts, and in our interactions with our loved ones. For this piece, I recorded an audio and subsequently printed, I am still traveling. Where will this Journey take me?| in English and Farsi on pairs of sheets of fabric. I borrowed the piece from the poem The Traveler by the renowned Persian poet Sohrab Sepehri. The fabric pairs were sewed together to make pillowcases. With both the visual and audio aspects of the poem, the audience can both listen to and observe the differences between the natures of these languages. The obvious visual and aural differences in how these two languages are written and spoken can signify a strong sense of distance. Farsi symbolizes the part of my identity which is alien to this place, and my accented English further reinforces the notion of being an outsider. As a result, in this body of work, I aim to explore the notion of belonging and estrangement through the collision of the languages. In my sound component, I focused on a simultaneous aural experience, where I intertwine and entangle two streams of my voice reading the same poem (The Traveler), in my two languages. There are many significant aspects to this poem. It discloses the feelings and thoughts of a traveller: being in-between places real and unreal; the notion of displacement of identities and places; an isolated traveller who is talking to a presence that is likely to be imaginary; the state of emptiness; feeling and defining profound distances and times long passed, and more importantly; the burden of travelling and carrying the sense of exile and estrangement.
Location: Gallery 621, Department of Art, University of Calgary.
Photo credit: Marzieh Mosavarzadeh