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Open Access Publications from the University of California


  • Author(s): Ghaderi, Parisa
  • et al.

My work is about the distance created by compounded loss and the opacity of language. Using photography and video, I explore moments of pause that are filled with vulnerability, silence and contradiction.

Moving from Iran to the U.S. revealed an in-between state about distance; I never fully arrived and never fully left. There is always something in between which is dysfunctional and paralyzing. Something is always missing. To show this void, I use cutout letters and self-portraits to focus on paradoxical emotions in dealing with distance and loss. I am fascinated by the human face and the silence in portraiture because the face has complicated our idea of identity and rootedness.

Often my portraits are captured in a mundane domestic setting with confronting gaze, exploring personal and communal loss. Language is another distance, especially when it comes to translation. Translation makes you nauseous and numb; you become a different person in another culture; you silence the things you are good at and become shy, polite, apologetic, stupid, weak, and self conscious. Language itself is a void in communication. I intentionally avoid translation in my work to take access away from my audience, making them feel like alien to the language- to illustrate how language fails us when we need to communicate and how some words and expressions are untranslatable. This is a very common and difficult experience in every immigrant’s life.

This series, is a visual narrative based on poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s most controversial female poets of the 1950’s and 60’s. In her poems she discusses contradictory feelings women experience in their daily lives; such as hope and despair, desire and repulsion, and captivity and freedom. For example, she describes herself as a prisoner who has fallen in love with her prison guard, or a bird who does not want to leave the cage. She uses metaphor to better capture details and moments which are often overlooked. For this project I chose lines from Forugh’s poems that resonated with my own feelings of alienation, loss and distance. Then I cut Farsi words out of paper, fabric and latex gloves. The act of cutting out letters was very therapeutic for me because during that period, I was grieving the loss of my mother. This became a metaphor for my own frustration and anger over the geographical distance and her absence.

The series also examines cross-cultural literature about the woman’s role in society and family, the emotional and physical distance they feel in daily life, contradiction over having multiple identities, honor versus labor and the concept of reward. Moving through time and geography, I will continue to explore themes surrounding distance, loss, language and identity in my work. Each time, I approach the work with a new perspective in the hopes of removing borders and creating relatable, empathic, transparent and translatable experiences.

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