My mediums and forms change, but the focus of my work is signage and symbology from Iranian and Islamic art and how they are significant in the construction of histories through documentation and archive. I’m also interested in the aesthetic of Islamic Art as rooted in love through resistance, rebellion against unjust authoritarianism and personal sacrifice and even the media and contemporary imagery which has derailed the international perception of these messages.
My explorations are in methods which construct a collective perspective. Although my work changes in form, the connective thread examines the creation of symbols or icons through persuasion or other means, and what gives power to images or language and how they enable philosophies or actions. Throughout my career, my focus has been to elucidate the power of visual language of Islamic art, not its icons, iconoclasm and symbols directly. I am also influenced by symbology in American popular culture and movements, generated from within a people’s struggle for equality and justice and how those symbols are greedily bowdlerized in American media.
While all symbols are constructs that represent something else, I focus on those created by a collective understanding, locally, influenced by culture and context or understood globally based on human experience. My work isolates and discusses those symbols, ranging from minimalism to communication art. More than anything, my work exploits the signifiers relayed through iconic symbols. It looks at how icons can be complemented through their various linguistic messages and how they can be manipulated to change historical circumstances.
“Haram eh Massomeen va Shohadha – Threshold of the Innocents and Martyred, I hand carved a wooden shrine sculpture and installation, physically inspired by my family’s shrine in Sari, Iran. The shrine was dedicated to people killed by law enforcement. Inside was a second rectangular layer nearly equal the size of the outside structure made of plexi-glass. I performed inside the shrine, writing all of the incidents I could find internationally of civilian deaths by police or military. I wrote backward so it could be legible from the outside.
In other shrine pieces, I have used items not traditional to the Shia practice but in that spirit of using materials to fit different contexts. Some shrines installations are made of plastic knives, others made of string bikinis. All of these installations are representative of the labor and struggles of transnational culturally Muslim people.
My performances are immediate and physical responses to media, perception, events and phenomenon. Through all of my performances I use my body, my history, my knowledge to create dialogues that can impact perspectives and influence change. In “Baba Karam Lessons”, inspired by Adrian Piper’s “Funk Lessons”, I taught an audience in California how to do a dance, mythologicaly from the south side of Tehran, considered the slum. The dance is a caricature of something danced by street tough men called “jahel”. The tradition of the dance has many complex layers that question, class, gender and sexuality. The installation for the dance included all of the costume items and two mirrors with directions for the dance written on them. I taught my American audience to dance like the jahels of south Tehran.
In other performances, I have created characters to enhance and exaggerate aspects of my own personality in a blend with other people I have observed with a similar background to me. Two of these characters are the Sand Ninja and Ak-Ami who constantly overlap/oppose. They also allow their audience to define them to a certain extent through a projected understanding of how their “type” of character would be, Sand Ninja, the over exaggerated orientalist fantasy or AK-AMI a masked hijabi created from a perspective of guerrilla struggle of dominant power systems and a reaction by so many transnational Muslims post 9/11