Gohar Dashti


| 2019

Regardless of who we are, our lives are layered and richly textured with physical and figurative uprooting(s) and migrations.

On one of my trips, an immigrant friend asked me to take a postcard back to her family in our country of origin (Iran); on the front of the postcard was a photograph of the natural environment in her new home (U.S). On the back she had written, “I live here. A place similar to our home.” Furthermore, I remember a documentary (Jaddoland, Directed by Nadia Shihab), in which the filmmaker visits her Iraqi mother living in Texas. During a drive through the Texas landscape, she reflects on the “vastness” of her mother’s longing for a sense of home. “The landscape of west Texas was a mirror image of Iraq, and it was this other memory of home that she searched for.”

I am drawn to nature with these similar stories and their ubiquitous presence in my life. The idea of my “Land/s” series grew out of a fascination with these human/geographical narratives and their interconnection with my own personal experience.

As for so many others, nature is what connects me to my homeland. It transcends borders and stays with me in the space that I live in now (Cambridge, MA). It is a base layer, a lens, an overlay; a tendril of wild fern sneaking into the frame. The limitless reach of nature and landscapes – that reach across cultural and political divisions –as well as the ways in which immigrants inevitably search out and reconstruct familiar topographies in a foreign land, together tell a story familiar to all humans.

However, this is a paradox of identity and belonging. Sometimes, I see a tree similar to one we had in our yard in my hometown (Ahvaz, Iran) but I feel a different connection with this new tree because its roots and fragrance are different as they grew in another climate and soil. I even hear distinct bird sounds from these two trees. When I stand in the new land and look at this new tree which I have no memories associated with, I try to recall my old memories and reinvigorate.

In my practice, I bring two disparate environments into coexistence, creating staged interventions that induce uncertainty and complicity in equal measure, announcing themselves as fictitious yet compelling a suspension of disbelief. The images in the “Land/s” are not created using a simple montage technique. They are, rather, the result of endless journeys across two continents and the subsequent transportation of these images into an alternate natural landscape, by the sea, in the mountains, or in the forests, where the composition of the picture acts as a link between what is in the foreground and what is in the background, sometimes exposing and sometimes obscuring the way the picture was constructed. I consider how the intimate relationship between mankind and nature can create new narratives related to issues on global migration. How landscapes could have Human/geographical narrative meaning.