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Tracing Bloodlines – Taryn Simon’s photography

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Taryn Simon exhibition’s theme has much in common with PhotoIreland Festival subject which is Cultural Identity.

Her latest exhibition in MoMA New York “A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII” was produced over a four-year period (2008–11), during which the artist travelled around the world researching and documenting bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the 18 “chapters” that make up the work, external forces of territory, power, circumstance, or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects Simon documents include victims of genocide in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with a lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping the relationships among chance, blood, and other components of fate.

Simon’s project is divided into 18 chapters, nine of which will be presented at MoMA. Each chapter is comprised of three segments: one of a large portrait series depicting bloodline members (portrait panel); a second featuring text (annotation panel); and a third containing photographic evidence (footnote panel).

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII exploits photography’s capacity to at once probe complex narratives in contemporary politics and organize this material according to classification processes characteristic of the archive, a system that connects identity, lineage, history, and memory.

May 2 – September 3, 2012

The Robert and Joyce Menschel Photography Gallery, third floor.


Home Is Where They Let You Live

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Illustration by Anna Bhushan

New York Times article written by Jasmin Darznik.

“WHERE is your home?” the consular officer asked me.

I was 13 years old. My parents and I had left Iran eight years earlier, at the onset of the 1979 revolution. Since then, they had bought a house and a business — a small roadside motel in California. I had gone to school and learned to speak English. Then, on a summer trip to visit my mother’s Iranian relatives in Germany, I made the mistake of calling America my home.

The trouble started when my mother handed me the visa forms. My father had stayed behind to run the motel, and even though my mother had learned enough English to get by, at moments like this, when it was just the two of us, I was still the translator and all-purpose intermediary between “us” and “them.” I took the clipboard and began filling in the papers. My parents and I were in the United States legally, but since we’d traveled outside the country, my mother’s business visa would need to be renewed. It was standard procedure — we wouldn’t have encountered any difficulties if, under the line asking where our home was, I hadn’t written “America.”

“Are you sure about that?” the officer asked me, her pen pointed at my adolescent cursive. When I nodded, she retreated to a back room. A few minutes later, she returned to inform us that our applications had been denied. We would not be able to return to America, because we had expressed an intention to stay in the country permanently.

Looking back, the certainty of my response astonishes me. The Iranian revolution and the vagaries of immigration law had dispersed my relatives all over the world. By the time I faced that consular officer, I had cousins in Wisconsin, Stockholm, Istanbul and all points in between. During our time in Germany, my mother stayed up long into the night, reminiscing with my aunts and uncles about Iran and speculating about the country’s future — and the possibility of returning there someday. (…)

As it happens, I did return, nearly two years later. After several unsuccessful attempts at filing appeals for us on his own, my father was finally able to hire an attorney. Six months after that, my mother and I were free to come back, though with the explicit promise that we’d be staying only temporarily and only for business reasons.

Of course, so much had changed by the time I returned. The first — and in some ways most enduring — shock came at the airport in San Francisco, when I couldn’t recognize my father in the crowd. Two years of running the motel on his own and wrangling with immigration bureaucracy had left their mark. He’d gained a lot of weight, and wrinkles fanned out at the corners of his eyes. He was also much sadder than I remembered, but then I’d left as a child and returned much more grown up, and I could see him differently now.

America, though not wholly strange, was no longer familiar to me. Before, I’d willed myself into looking and sounding as if I belonged. Though I could still pass as American, I now had the sensation of perpetually looking at everything from the outside. Home schooling, paired with exile, had made me more shy and introspective, if also more independent. I was a real immigrant now.

Each year many thousands of children are brought to America by their parents. They come before they have any concept of citizenship, much less of belonging. Like me, they will draw their notions of “home” not only from what is familiar and desirable but also from what is permitted and denied them.

Today, I am a permanent resident. I can go and come easily, but at borders I am still reduced to the girl who once made the mistake of calling America her home. I check and recheck my passport for my green card. It’s always there, right where I put it, along with the uncertainty, the fear and, yes, the anger I’ll never quite outrun.

“Home.” At 13, I had that notion knocked out of me in ways that were useful, or mostly so. But the word still makes me uneasy, and even now, whenever I am given a choice, I leave the answer blank.

Full version of the article on New York Times Sunday Review web site.

Jasmin Darznik is a professor of English at Washington and Lee University and the author of “The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life.”


Immigrant Artist Project New York

Through the Immigrant Artist Project (IAP), the New York Foundation for the Arts is building and serving a community of artists with diverse backgrounds who share the experience of immigration. We connect artists with services and resources to foster their creative careers, gain support and exposure for their work, and integrate into the cultural world of New York and beyond while upholding their distinct identities.

The free Con Edison IAP Newsletter is sent out via email and posted online every month. The newsletter lists information on upcoming opportunities and events of particular interest to immigrant artists but open to all. We also feature an artist or an arts/immigrant services organization, and helpful tips for professional development. Additionally, there are new sections on helpful tips translated into different languages as well as the Mentoring Alumni Corner to highlight the achievements and activities of past mentees of our Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists.

Cultural Community Events expand the accessibility of the Immigrant Artist Project by offering instructional workshops, seminars, and panels on themes responsive to the needs of immigrant artists. Some topics include grant writing, legal services and marketing. To present these programs, we partner with cultural, advocacy, social and immigrant service organizations throughout New York City. This approach cultivates and strengthens a network of advocates and service providers for immigrant artists.

The Individual Consultation Initiative provides immigrant artists with practical and professional advice from an arts professional who has extensive experience in supporting artists in the areas of visual and performing arts. Each in-person appointment is $30 for a 30-minute session.

The Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists pairs emerging foreign-born artists with artists who have received a NYFA Fellowship. The mentors interact with their mentees one-on-one for a period of six months, guiding them in achieving specific goals and providing them with broader access to the New York cultural world through an exchange of ideas, resources and experiences. The program helps immigrant artists build some necessary skills to fairly compete as professional artists in New York.

The NYFA Folk Artist Development Program helps senior members of immigrant communities build professional skills and resources to carry forward their traditional art forms. It is open to traditional artists of the material and/or performing arts. We build the capacity of participants through seminars, workshops, and individual consultations. We also provide them with the opportunity to showcase their traditions in demonstrations and performances for diverse audiences at various sites in the NYC area. Artists are provided a $100 stipend for their participation in the program.

Email:
i.outreach@nyfa.org
Phone: 212-366-6900 x249
Address:
New York Foundation for the Arts
20 Jay St, Suite 740, Brooklyn NY 11201



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