For a diasporic person the relationship of past and present might signify a place of origin and removal (from it). Queer diaspora critique problematizes fixed origins by interrupting a dominant perception that diasporic bodies seek a return to a homeland. How does one negotiate their multiple diasporic queer identities as they reimagine belonging without claiming a fixed home that erases the multiplicity that comes from the interrelatedness of these identities? In this Plan I explore this question by drawing on scholars theorizing diaspora and queer diaspora critique to make sense of my own Iranian Kurdish Jewish American queer diasporic experiences and by reflecting on my own art-making that investigates relationships with objects that are social signifiers.
My parents are inthe United States, but not of the United States. How is the idea of origins treated? Is “home” a “mythic place of desire in the diasporic imagination,” or a lived experience based on locality? Diaspora does not speak only to those who lived in a nation or homeland, it involves racial memory and collective memory. The longing for home does not exist in a way where there is an articulated “loss” because there is no physical attachment to that nation. The “situatedness” is central to the dispersion, but the re-settlement must also account for bodies within communities of exile that not only have an imaginary relationship to their parents’ homeland, but also the complexities of unbelonging in a community that was created by the generation before.
The complicated relationships many queer diasporic artists of color have at home become the source for explorations into imaginative forms of belonging as they critique “cultural authenticity” that has often been used to validate their claims to belonging in dominant discourses on diaspora. In doing so, these artists reverse what has been called “the hierarchical relation of the nation to diaspora,” where the diaspora is seen as disavowed from and inauthentic to the nation. Looking at how the “inauthentic” is performed as an “authentic” performance of diaspora is a direct reworking.
In a longer duration body of work, starting from 2017 and ongoing, I ask anyone that is willing to have either childhood photos of mine or my name tattooed onto their body. As of now, there are 12 bodies with my photos on them and 4 with my name. This series is a way of mapping myself onto another person’s body to possibly ask the question that Patel often asks: “what makes us who we are anyways?”37 If a social mimicking can happen in anyone’s day-to-day, then how do I, as an artist, relate that in a visual way? While Patel uses various cultural references to illustrate the multiple ways of being an authentic self, I use his question to demonstrate how my body may impact another person’s sense of self.
The most memorable part of my Plan were all the one-on-one tutorials that helped me improve my personal practice, including one dedicated to teaching video art. My Plan was instrumental in my development of a coherent body of work.