The People First: City Council Poster, 2018, Digital C Print, variable dimensions
The People First: You Never Know, 2018, Campaign Speech/Rap Performance, Whitney Museum of American Art
The People First: You Never Know is a political speech turned cathartic rap dance-party with performers Laurie Berg and Zavé Martohardjono. I am an Iranian-American artist and rapper running for City Council in District 38 of Brooklyn in 2021. Exploring the culture of violence and fear-mongering that Western media perpetuates, I share my experiences at the gun show, ask what the opposite of a weapon could be, and encourage a group catharsis through video, dance, and rap music. Can political empowerment for change and liberating entertainment be the same thing? Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.
The People First: Persistent Resisting, 2018, Digital C Print, variable dimensions
Word on the Street: I was born for love not hatred at the Women’s Strike, 2017, felt political banner, Amy Khoshbin + Anne Carson
Word on the Street is an ongoing text-based public art initiative in collaboration with my sibling-led arts collective House of Trees consisting of original political and poetic banners created by female artists and writers in collaboration with female refugee fabricators based in Texas. Artists + writers include: myself + Anne Carson, Carrie Mae Weems, Wangechi Mutu, Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson + A.M. Homes, Tania Bruguera, Naomi Shihab Nye + House of Trees. I created the original felt protest banners with writer Anne Carson around the Women’s March 2017, and the series was subsequently shown at different protests and in many arts institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum, breaking down the invisible wall between the street and the institution. The Word on the Street banners speak to the urgent, timeless concerns of the individual, community and the requirements of citizenry. Commissioned byTimes Square Arts, the reproductions of the banners appeared on street pole banners and Bigbelly trash receptacles in Times Square from Aug 2017- Sept 2018, subverting advertising space with the language of resistance.
Word on the Street at The Watermill Center, 2017, felt political banner exhibition, House of Trees art collective (Amy + Jennifer Khoshbin). Banners on view in this image: Don’t Be Afraid of Anyone: Laurie Anderson + A.M. Homes, I was born for love not hatred: Amy Khoshbin + Anne Carson, If you’re not creating, you’re simply consuming, create with courage: Wangechi Mutu, Change Requires 2020 Vision: Carrie Mae Weems, Pants on Fire: Jenny Holzer, Open Palms Hold More: Naomi Shihab Nye + House of Trees, Quiet Lives Inside Noise: Naomi Shihab Nye + HOT
Word on the Street: Moral Injury at the Guggenheim Museum, 2018, Jenny Holzer + House of Trees art collective (Amy + Jennifer Khoshbin)
Word on the Street: Times Square Arts, 2017-18, Vinyl Street Pole Banners + BigBelly Trash Cans, House of Trees art collective Banners on view: Imagination Births Courage Births Change Births Freedom: Wangechi Mutu, Action Comes from the Backbone, Not the Wishbone: Anne Carson + Amy Khoshbin, Embrace the Absurd: Laurie Anderson + A.M. Homes, I was born for love not hatred: Anne Carson + Amy Khoshbin
Workshop on the Street: Times Square, 2017-18, House of Trees (Amy + Jennifer Khoshbin), Times Square Arts
Workshop on the Street is a participatory banner-making workshop created in collaboration with my sibling-led arts collective House of Trees, where the public is invited to exercise their freedom of speech by creating their own wearable protest gear made from colorful felt in the form of banners, sashes, capes, or badges. WOTS is empowerment through engaging in a creative act- we encourage visitors to respond honestly to their political and personal landscape through making with their hands. We use felt because it’s a ubiquitous material, found cheaply at any craft store in America. Workshop on the Street engages the community in social action through creating an inclusive, diverse, engaging environment propelled by guest speakers, musicians and DJ’s who ally themselves with the importance of public expression. Workshop has been enacted at multiple locations including Times Square, The Watermill Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, Mana Contemporary, Project for Empty Space, etc.
Workshop on the Street: Times Square, 2017, House of Trees (Amy + Jennifer Khoshbin), Times Square Arts
The Myth of Layla: Terror Alert Five: Eyes Open, 2016, Digital C Print, 30”x20”
The Myth of Layla (TMOL) is a multimedia installation, videos, and participatory performance series about political ideology, celebrity-obsessed media, and an Iranian-American activist named Layla based on my history. TMOL is a SciFi allegory set in a near future when a big-brother media conglomerate called The Network runs the US and is at war with Iran. The leader of The Network is a reality show host who employs media-manipulation tactics. The Host of The Network invites Layla and random audience members to participate on their reality show, Activists in Sexy Solidarity (ASS), which is the set for the installation/performances. Layla must choose between her political ideology and dubious external forces. TMOL was written pre-Trump, and was then exhibited as a solo show/performed at Mana Contemporary Sept-Nov 2016 (Pre to Post Trump), NURTUREart Nov 2016, and The Watermill Center Oct 2015.
The Myth of Layla: FEARMESS: Terror Alerts, 2016, Digital C Print, 30”x20”
The Myth of Layla: Activists in Sexy Solidarity, 2016, Installation, 1500 sq ft, Mana Contemporary
The Myth of Layla: Trailer and Commercials is a trailer for the Activist in Sexy Solidarity performances at Mana Contemporary, alongside commercials and terror alerts screened in the installation/performance. Taking satirical cues from the absurd structures of reality TV, viewers become part of the piece, captured by running cameras and screened during the performance and installation. Khoshbin creates a dramatic parallel universe that – vividly demonstrating the dangers of media control and the necessity of questioning content consumption – echoes America's contemporary socio-political state.
Commissioned as a solo exhibition and series of performances at Mana Contemporary and NURTUREart in 2016, TMOL received a Rema Hort Mann Artist Community Engagement Grant, Creative Capital On Our Radar Award, and a Watermill Center and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency. Partially funded through Kickstarter. Featured on VICE's The Creators Project. Exhibition text by Brooklyn Museum Curator Carmen Hermo available here: https://tinyurl.com/zbfbbpw
PROTEST, 2015, explores personal narratives and media mythologies surrounding Western perceptions of Middle Eastern culture. I use my monoprints along with imagery from video games, the internet, and Persian miniature painting to examine my familial myths including my father's immigration to the US. My father fled to the US for political asylum after having his photograph taken by a journalist during protesting the CIA-led coup against Prime Minister Mossadegh. I interrogate how the media affected my family’s story, and how the Western media continues its long history of vilifying and exoticizing Middle Eastern culture to this day.