For the last year, Iranian-born Los Angeles artist Farzad Kohan has been collecting stories of migration. He sent out a call and got replies via email, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Though the questions were the same, the answers were different.
When did you move?
Why did you move?
What have you learned?
Because of the nature of the final work, he asked for no more than two lines. What he got back was much, much more.
He laughed and cried, transformed and was transformed by the experience. One person took over a month to answer the questions. In the end, they said they just couldn’t sum up what they had learned in two lines. Another said this was very private information that only closest family knew.
Farzad is no stranger to the theme of immigration. He left Iran when he was 18. He now has a 16-year-old daughter who was born and raised in Los Angeles.
Perhaps listening to so many people of various ages, birthplaces and destinations, and walks of life, gave him greater insight into his own story.
Farzad says the reason we move is we no longer feel comfortable where we are.
This could be for a variety of reasons and is as old as human history. It could be because we change or the people around us change. Or because of climate or war. For whatever reason, we no longer belong.
Since this is part of an endless cycle, Farzad knew he was opening a window into our time. He knew he was being trusted with precious information. This informed the execution of the work.
He used both oil and water-based paint that expressed our repelling our original environment. The canvases hang loose and free; mounted only on a thin board at the top, making them ready to roll and be transported at any moment. This also makes them borderless and fluid. They are more likely to respond to their environment.
The words in the paintings are unaltered. Some are even in the native tongue of the writers. This was very important to Farzad, who sees himself more like a medium connecting the speaker with the reader. He purposely chose to paint them in American Typewriter font. As an American, he sees this as neutral.
Farzad sees the messages as letters.
Because letters are typically folded, he has added folds to the canvases, which also adds to the individual nature of each piece. To make them more universally relatable, he has tried to choose answers with no reference to age, sex or nationality when possible.
Multi-layered, Farzad’s Migration Stories pieces feel like the street, a mix of graffiti and of this weeks’ posters glued upon last weeks’.
There are more than 25 finished pieces in the series. 13 of them will be on exhibit at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai from Wed 23 Nov til 23 Feb.