I, Saffron

Jenna Shamoon (Curator), Maria Won (Assistant Curator)

Joan Goldfarb Visual Arts Study Centre, York University, 2019

I am interested in conducting a performance piece that reflects the workings and poetics of the Persian cuisine. Cooking saffron rice is a creative art that can be interpreted as theatrics: trapped indoors, the matriarchs of the house- pass their days simmering stews and cooking aromatic rice. I want to embody the concept of creation by writing my daily emotions and experiences on grains of rice. The props will include saffron ink and a brush made with strands of my own hair. Using a piece of myself symbolically represents the sacrificial element of household duties and chores. The stage will be set so that the audience can get a glimpse into the ordinary and magical practices that occur among these women. They are often able to make the impossible possible. For two seasons of fall and winter, I will be working diligently at a desk, using a magnifying glass for hours upon hours. Simultaneously, in the villages of Iran, a mother, a wife or a grandmother is in the process of performing her own laborious task.

Saffron is an important ingredient that is often used in many Iranian dishes. The act of picking saffron--both captivating and mechanical--requires 70,000 flowers to produce one kilogram. The fruition of this endeavor is a magical process and is often performed by women. Therefore, by sitting at a desk, and slowly writing my diary on massive amounts of rice, I am paying homage to all the female ancestors whose journey consisted of creating joy out of routine and ordinary practices. In order to convey this impression, I will set up a camera with a micro lens and focus on writing my feelings on each grain of rice. The audience will have a chance to view my performance piece for couple months. An installation that incorporates aspects of Persian hospitality: cooking, working for the family, along with the fusion of modern technology, will allow for a natural engagement between the artist and an audience. Art has the capacity to break down barriers and open up conversations on cultures that are foreign to the Western eye.

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