In his 2011 lecture “The Challenges of Immigration: A Radical Solution,” Gary Becker, 1992 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, proposes that US immigrants pay an entrance fee of around $50,000. Becker argues this would be a win-win situation. My brother, Ramyar and I have been seeking an O-1 (artist) visa to stay and work in United States and we both used to live in the basement of Gary Becker’s house in Hyde Park, Chicago.

In direct response to Gary Becker’s lecture, this piece is titled The Challenges of Imagination. Through various stories and documents, the work will cast a sharp, though always playful, satiric eye on the world and its assumptions and institutions.

Challenges of Imagination is a collaborative project with Ramyar Vala. The work exists both as a lecture-performance and a video-installation. Challenges of Imagination has been performed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Northwestern University in Evanston and it has been displayed as a video-installation at the HydePark Art Center in Chicago. 




It is almost expected, perhaps that I, as an artist, start my statement by mentioning my nationality, because the name of the nation will immediately conjure up a spectrum of mixed-up emotions to the reader. She will be partially curious, politically engaged, touched and hopefully convinced that the traces of this facet of my identity has enriched both my practice and the host institution’s diversity. However, the excitement and curiosity of such understanding is not the type of engagement my work calls for.

Let us imagine two cliffs standing in front of each other, separated by an abyss, a great gap. And let’s further assume that each cliff represents a polarity: each cliff is the antithesis of the other. The first thought that comes to mind is reaching the other side by a bridge. This bridge, however, does not necessarily become the object of understanding simply because it connects the two. It is rather an object of curiosity, a pathway for more discoveries. And discoveries are, of course, full of misunderstanding. This misunderstanding becomes that abstract object of art that can be interpreted infinitely, and the bridge is that misleading conduit for misinterpretation.

But if we dismantle the idea of the bridge and never intend to have one, the existence of the gap becomes the basis for a concrete rather than abstract understanding. Instead of the simple act of crossing over and with it the illusion of the mutual connection, let’s consider a collapse as a demonstration of the existence of a gap. A gap out of which one may generate production, develop lines of flight, new possibilities for engaging with alterity. It all unfolds within this gap or in-between-ness. The struggle to produce, rather than arrive at, an understanding is at the cornerstone of my practice.

As a graphic designer, I am provided with content that does not require my allegiance or belief. As an artist I  function both as the designer and the content provider. I may be bridging these fields or may have collapsed them, but what is certain is that the gap is filled with images, objects, texts, theories and stories that have eroded and tumbled down from both cliffs.

My work is generated from the debris of this binary avalanche. Whether as a result of decay, deterioration or nascent protuberance, the digital image — complemented by voice and storytelling — is my primary material. I am propelled by the gravity of events. A short, partial list of things that have cascaded into the gap, and keep falling from both cliffs: love, identity, immigration, forgery, labor, vulnerability and institutional critique.

My work is an attempt to graft the two cliffs onto each other through the character of a migrant and an imposter. The videos are all structured as love stories and poetic narratives that unfold between territories and people who can neither stay nor are able to leave. Dwarfed on either side by a precipice they are constantly pushed and pulled, attracted and repelled as they negotiate positions, identities and fidelities.