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The Taste of Displacement

010_03 / 28 July 2016

 

Dena Al-Adeeb

The Taste of Displacement (2014), excerpt

4 mins 30 secs

 

Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.
Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.

 

The Taste of Displacement (2014) is a video project and an experimental performance piece that brings together a diverse group of transnational and diasporic Iraqis from various personal and professional backgrounds (including the arts, activism, academia, journalism, and gastronomy) for a shared meal. The participants were asked to provide a personally meaningful Iraqi recipe, which was prepared and served communally. The performative acts of food making, recipe sharing and eating prove to be contested markers of collective memory, identity, politics and socio-economics.

 

The artist-choreographed banquet offers a collaborative creative process with critical engagement amongst the participants. Stories and memories transpire, revealing the similarities and divergences in personal and collective narratives and experiences of war, displacement, and remembrance.  The encounter portrays a complex and diverse web of socio-political histories that manifest through the congregation, outside of their homelands, and can only take place in the diaspora. The project aims to gastronomically explore various intersections, including those of memory, trauma, dislocation, and diet. Culinary, conceptual and aesthetic deliberations are part and parcel of the development of the ongoing project.

 

The project is informed by texts and histories as diverse as Ibn Sayyar Al-Waraq's tenth-century Baghdadi cookbook, al-Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes), recipes from the Arabian Nights, Ashurnasirpal II's brick-inscribed banquet menu, near the doorway to his palace, and Zirayb's revolutionizing the culinary arts of medieval Arab Spain by taking charge of the kitchens of the Cordoba courts.

 

Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.
Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.

 

Process:

 

I invited several Iraqis and those of Iraqi heritage, who's creative practices tackle Iraq, to cook and share a meal together. I employed comunal food making as a creative process and practice, as well as eating as a performative act, that bridges the gap between those of diverse  backgrougnds. I wanted to bring to the table questions related to collective memory, trauma, violence, and creative practices that engage with Iraq's past, present and future. I initally sought out to explicitly interrogate the participants relationship to the Iran-Iraq War, First and Second Gulf Wars, including the US invasion and occupatoin, as well as the continued violent interventions in Iraq. I also planned to pursue the participants displacement narratives and relationship to making sense of living in the belly of the beast. I had initial conversations with the participants via phone about the project and I had planned on meeting collecitvely before the performance to discuss the details further. The night of the performance, I decided not to engage the participants in a collective conversation regarding the content of the project but rather keep it open and fluid. I wanted the conversations to transpire more organically, initated by each of the participants. The engagment proved to be more subtle and nuanced.

 

I am invested in developing a creative community as well as building long-term relationships that are committed to working collaboratively.  I am interested in exploring and learning from other creative practitioners to develop ideas through dialogue as well as finding new approaches and practices for working collaboratively. I find participatory practices that are socially and politically engaged to be de-alienating, playful and humanizing.

 

The negotiating process with the curator and gallery revealed an interest in inviting an audiance to be a part of the performance. I was hestiant about including an audience for many reasons, including questions related to the Gaze and Insider/Outsider, but after much deliberation I decided to be open to experimentation.

 

Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.
Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.

 

Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.
Dena Al-Adeeb, The Taste of Displacement, 2014.

 

About the author

Dena Al-Adeeb

Dena Al-Adeeb is an artist, writer, and scholar-activist born in Baghdad, Iraq and is currently based in New York. Dena is a Visiting Instructor in the Humanities and Media Studies Department and Pratt School of Architecture at the Pratt Institute. She is also an Adjunct Faculty in the Media, Culture and Communication Department at New York University. Dena is a Ph.D. candidate in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department, Culture and Representation track with a focus in Arts Politics at New York University.

 

Her art work takes on varied practices including performance, installation, video, photography, drawing, sculpture, painting, sound, and writing. Her work has been exhibited internationally at such places as the Arab American National Museum, Museum of Tunisia, Museum of Latin American Art, Light Work Gallery, Headlands Center for the Arts, Worth Ryder Gallery at the University of California-Berkeley, MECA at Mana Contemporary, Art 13: London: Modern and Contemporary Art Fair, The National Veterans Art Museum, Örebro International Videoart Festival, Darb 1718, Falaki Gallery, Mashrabia Gallery, Espcase Karim Francis Gallery, Bastakiya Art Fair, Galerie le Violon Bleu, among others. Dena has been a resident artist at Light Work and Mana Contemporary in New York.

 

Dena's work has been published in Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Belonging, We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War Anthology, Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, The Color of Violence Anthology, Contemporary Practices Journal, Art Dubai Journal, Kritiker Literary Journal, Hysteria: Hysterical Feminisms Periodical, Contact Sheet, Light Work Annual 2011, Jadaliyya, among others.