26

FEB

THURSDAY'S PUNCH / INTERVIEW WITH SHEIDA SOLEIMANI

POSTED IN: '74 GAZETTE

Could you explain the project “National Anthem” and how references come about?\r\n\r\nThrough the changing of dictators within the past 35 years of Iranian political history, the national anthem of the country has been changed 3 times: each time suiting the more oppressive regime that has come into power. The series of photographs appropriate cultural symbols and signifiers to create mash-ups in regards to my position as an Iranian-American viewing the Middle East from an outside lens. By focusing on media trends and the dissemination of societal occurrences through the news, I chose to source imagery from popular media, as well as social media leaks, and adapt them to exist within alternate scenarios. The usage of specific colors and political figures form a symbolic lexicon that runs throughout the series, while party supplies hint at the doctrines of ‘political parties’. The title ‘National Anthem’ also relates to my personal experience as someone with a dual nationality. As a child raised in the States, I remember the requirement of learning the US ‘National Anthem’ in school, as well as having to say the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’. I always thought this to be a strange thing, as I did not feel nationalistic about any specific place. Outside of the obvious political connotations, the photographs in this series highlight my relationship between both East and West.\r\n\r\nDo you think you have a responsibility to a country where you’re living? \r\n\r\nI do not pledge allegiance to any specific country. Irrespective of my political views, I feel I have a responsibility as a member of the society I exist in, Through choosing to relay my conversation through my artistic practice, I believe I best contribute and communicate my opinions\r\n\r\nCould you describe to us your “activist” behavior?\r\n\r\nI wouldn’t consider myself as an ‘activist’. My work does not aim to change anyone’s mind. I am, however, extremely opinionated on topics relating to the functioning of political parties and governments (specifically Iranian). I think the photographs used and referenced in the work are enough to clearly point at my specific opinions. More than anything, I am interested in examining how images of torture and execution are disseminated (through social media and media leaks vs popular news); and how popular news exoticizes and fetishizes the images instead of directly addressing their origins.\r\n\r\n“Panjereh” is your large-scale work, what inspired it?\r\n\r\nThat was very early work for me. Those pieces were more narrative based, involving stories that were told to me as a child by my parents. A lot of the references are mediations between my personal understandings of Iran, and how ideologies were refashioned for the tastes of the West. Each photograph in the series depicts a specific story, while symbols and animals reference aspects of each story.\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\nAbout / Sheida Soleimani is an Iranian-American artist currently residing in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, Soleimani would hear stories from her parents from their childhood in Iran. Soleimani was always concerned with the duality of her identity, being both American and Iranian.\r\n
Interview by Mert Gafuroglu
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