Ege Okal, Smoking Papers to Homeland, Papier de Damas rolling paper collage ,30”x50” each, inkjet on paper, 2019

Ege Okal, Mother's Milk, dimensions variable, rakı, copper tray, wooden pedestal, fountain, 2019

Ege Okal, House on Fire, cel animation on loop, 2019

Installation view, on the left Ege Okal, Mother's Milk (2019), center Ege Okal, Smoking Papers to Homeland (2019), on the right Yasmeen Abedifard, نامه - letters (2019)

Installation view, on the left Ege Okal, House on Fire (2019), center front Ege Okal, Mother's Milk (2019), center back Yasmeen Abedifard, زمان - history (2019), on the right Yasmeen Abedifard, مهمانی - party (2019).

A Dialogue of Diasporic Memory: ‘Hâne/خانه (Home)’
by Varun Biddanda

“The idea of a homeland is contestable as it is riddled with false nostalgias and exclusion – thus the word we chose instead was home. Home is a transient experience based on your placement in the world, while a homeland is stationary. We used this as a stepping stone for the work in the show.”
— Yasmeen Abedifard 

Yasmeen Abedifard and Ege Okal are the creative architects behind Hâne/خانه (Home), an exhibition navigating the dialectic tensions surrounding the idea of home. Coming from two sides of the diasporic experience, Abedifard and Okal channeled their lived experiences into the conceptual origin of Hâne/خانه (Home) — as well as the fact that, in Abedifard’s words, “[their] experiences returning to a homeland had a similar unsatisfying, bitter taste.” Traversing the inter-cultural negotiations of memory and spaces, this exhibition is a moving journey of what home means and how these significations are constantly interrogated.

At the far end of the gallery are two animations facing each other. Though independently created with pencil and digital editing, both Abedifard and Okal agreed that the mutual relationship between the two pieces felt natural. Their juxtaposition across from each other in the gallery spaces establishes an organic dialectic between each other. In “House on fire,” Okal’s work superimposes a perpetual loop of a burning house on a piercing, red background. Facing it is Abedifard’s “مهمانى – party,” which shows a woman in front of a black background sitting alone on a sofa. In an almost chalk-like white outline, the pencil form’s animation articulates an oscillating texture, imitating the often uneven continuums through which we return to home and its memory. In some ways it is as if the woman is gazing directly at the burning home across from her. The dialectic between the two animations is further reified by the accompanying audio of a dinner table conversation.

The word nostalgia, when literally translated, signifies the pain of returning home. Though the title peripherally alludes to a celebration, the somber expression of the woman in Abedifard’s animation — along with its relation with “House on fire” and the ambient audio — materializes this etymological implication of nostalgia along with the overall notion of home. It is unclear on what dimension the destruction of home is occurring in “House on fire,” and perhaps it is this ambiguity that opens itself to such a universal aperture of memory. In some ways, it interrogates the validity of the physical entity of the house as a discursive mediator of home. Along another vein, it resonates deeply with the trauma of displacement as well as invoking the spatial and psychological reconfigurations that displacement inevitably inflicts.

The idea of home is often idealized as a site of harmony between the self and the inhabited space. Hâne/خانه (Home) interrogates this association by centering itself around the unignorable dissonance between home and self that diaspora inscribes, that feeling of unsatisfying bitterness that Abedifard refers to. After leaving the exhibition, I could not help but think that home is not localized to a space, but rather it appears to be an orienting force in a narrative ecology of bodies. Perhaps it is through the idea of home that the self and its recollection can persist in their continuous (re)articulations.

Hâne/خانه /Home at Tjaden Gallery, Ithaca, NY
Artists: Ege Okal, Yasmeen Abedifard