Waking Up Iranian American

a series of one-to-one performances by Zoya Sardashti

Waking Up Iranian American is an autoethnographic work and series of performative interventions focused on the ways cultural exchange develops between a performer and a participant. These one-to-one performances create a space where people are invited to participate in discussions and actions about being between cultures, nationalism and Islamophobia, so that we might move beyond antiquated notions of free and oppressed. In this sense, the dialogical framework of the performances is a form of collaboration and, in its broadest sense, a key to changing power relationships between performers and participants. In Waking Up Iranian American, intimacy is used as a strategy to counteract the positioning cultures of fear intend to create.

This Story Doesn’t Begin With Me ~ participatory performance & installation

What if you could get to know a stranger by asking a question that elicits desire as a mode of self identification rather than a definition of location or ethnicity? Since our identities are subjected to trauma and systematic violence that nation-state projects through categorization, This Story Doesn’t Begin With Me, invites participants to consider what they long for or where they belong when introducing themselves. Through this exchange we will attempt to discover a more precise and relevant vocabulary, specific to our new relationship.

Glurns Art Point, Glorenza 2016

Parricida ~ public participatory performance & installation

In Letter to My Father Franz Kafka uses parricida (the killing of the father) as a concept to reflect on how actions by authoritarian governments manifest in the family unit. To confront this concept an attendant will offer a provocation in the women’s restroom while washing your hands. What if you inherited your mother’s family name rather than your father’s family name? How would it change the way you self-identify, interact with others and perceive the world? With the participant’s permission this experience will be documented,  so it’s traces will be hand written on the walls of the men’s restrooms and exhibited as an installation.

28th Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, La Compagnia, Florence 2017

Mandala signage co-designed and created by Elena Mojarad

Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로) ~ public participatory performance, installation & video 

Traces of a love story will be under a bowl of sugar next to a cup of tea. This love story requires multiple endings. Would you like to write, in any language, the final chapter of Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로)? Napkins and tea will be provided; please bring your own pen.


28th Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, La Compagnia, Florence 2017

To Be Seen & Unseen ~ public participatory performance & installation

What if you could be in the world without directly receiving the gaze of others? Through various modes of theatricality the performance confronts ideas of exposure, empowerment and in/visibility. You will be invited to take a journey with a performer. You will be invited to wear a costume, a traveler’s garment and a mask. Similar to masks worn in Venetian culture, this mask will free you from social codes and markers of identity. We will walk hand in hand wherever you wish. At certain points during our journey we might sit in silence, we might talk to other people, or we might just talk to each other. When we decide our journey has reached a midway point we will retrace our steps. We will walk back to the place of our departure separately on opposite sides of the path. 

28th Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, La Compagnia, Florence 2017

Costumes co-designed and created by Kristina Foley  Masks co-designed and created by Anna M. Rose

Dancing through the Diaspora ~ participatory performance

On the screen, I see myself there where I was, once in a physical space that opened up a place inside; I am there and here. What is worse than loneliness? There is light behind us and there is light in front of us. Now that you are with me our shadows guide where we might travel through. –adapted from Michel Foucault Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias

Is celebration public if the streets are not accessible to each and every body? In honor of the Iranian New Year, Norouz, the first Persian Day parade in Los Angeles took place during March 2015. Videos and photographs of the parade will be projected onto a screen  showing various forms of traditional Persian dance and movements performed by members of the ethnically diverse community of the Iranian diaspora in Southern California. Participants will be invited to move with a performer as she recalls  the experience. Somewhere between the sensual and the disembodied, Dancing Through the Diaspora, is a performative process of reorienting one’s self through and with another person. 


SPAM! / ALDES Produzione residency, Lucca 2015

How Do We Dress for the Weather? ~ participatory dance performance

The climate will change. Regimes will change. Flags will change, and so must modes of self-expression and perception. How do we express agency in a world where one’s body has been framed in a particular racial discourse? How Do We Dress for the Weather? is an opportunity to inhabit one’s body through the interplay between learning new movement and language, so through alterity we might sense sameness.

28th Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation, La Compagnia, Florence 2017

Performed with Sona Baradaran

Every Four Years ~ a live-streamed performance lecture in two forty-five minute halves 

To what extent has fear impacted the way you move? What constitutes movement enforcing fear? What denotes fearless movements? Every Four Years considers how cultures of fear (re)enforce values that form identity through embodiment. It is a performative mediation, analyzing ways one (re)inhabits ‘self’ through other cultures at different times, and in several places. In this performance, place is virtual, physical and psychological.


A freshman Senator tweets an open letter threatening sanctions with a tap of his finger, evoking an iconic gesture, I Want You!.  A gesture is released from the other side. It is an ascending thumb and index finger commanding, His Divine Right.

]performance space[ London, 2014

Information in the virtual missives are disseminated throughout our environment generating fear and suspicion. The particles merge with our ecological atmosphere. We inhale, exhale, receive, process, and transmit the traces of this proxy war. It changes the way we move and the way we relate to others.

Patsy’s Irish Pub Laguna Niguel, California 2018 https://goo.gl/maps/ks7zYAk6nLE2

We have already watched the most widely witnessed death in human history. On June twentieth, two thousand and nine years after the birth of Christ, a woman disappeared. Within seconds the past multiplied. A day after people assembled in her place. Next to flickering lights, they claimed to be one of her.

Chelsea Theatre, London 2014

Between States

When you watch a tragedy the main character dies at the end of the play. When you watch someone die on screen you have the choice to press backward, forward, pause or stop. Oftentimes you are also able to scroll up.

Not speaking with you, for you, or through you. Not speaking for myself, about myself, or of myself.

World Cup Stadium Seoul, South Korea 2009-present https://goo.gl/maps/pHwx6A6ewDH2


Formulations of Assembly


How can strangers act together when we live in worlds in which so many forms of solidarity are diminishing? In Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly Judith Butler writes that assembly “can be an embodied form of calling into question the inchoate and powerful dimensions of reigning notions of the political”. The act of assembling in a piazza, theatre, or park can manifest the understanding that a situation is shared, but this shared situation has limitations, especially, in a world where shootings and surveillance destabilise the power in demonstrating one’s voice with others or alone. Formulations of Assembly, facilitated by Zoya Sardashti, will question this dilemma. This project is in direct dialogue with Butler’s text in Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly.

The next workshop-as-event will take place at Mare Culturale  on the following dates:
September 29 & 30 10:00-18:00
November 17 & 18 10:00-18:00
November 24 & 25 10:00-18:00
Artist Statement
Formulations of Assembly is a response to a fear: in any event our lives are subject to precarity and violence. Through nonviolent movement and choreography, my practice-based research explores how to demonstrate vulnerability and empathy in a world where being subject to violence and/or witnessing violence is an everyday reality. My intention is to develop Formulations of Assembly in a safe and inclusive space, where strangers can express collective fears and hopes through movement and dialogue, in order to generate new forms of alliance and possibilities for assembly. We will use performance as a platform to independently and collectively call into question what is considered and not considered liveable lives, thus creating new forms of community engagement where diverse voices inspire nonviolent realities and enact new ways of being conscious.
Embodying Limitations


I have no accurate understanding of time and space.  Do you?

I can anticipate your movements and words, but I cannot perform your movements and words precisely. If I try to perform your movements and words I must be physically close to you, but we will never be close enough. Sometimes I follow you and sometimes you follow me. By chance we will believe we performed the same movements, if only temporarily. When I follow you, I give up (self) awareness.

Do you experience a similar sensation?

Why do we desire unity if our movement and speech will never be together?

Between States

Not speaking with you, for you, or through you. Not speaking for myself, about myself, or of myself.


Consider Formulations of Assembly a series of exercises, or non-repressive actions to sustain bodily awareness. During the workshop people will be invited to move and speak together, exploring exercises that resemble those in performance-based practices. Although theatre and dance training are used as methodologies, I seek to show the limitations of being in solidarity through performance as a way to embody impossibilities, not failures. This exploration (performing limitations/impossibilities) serves as a point of departure for discovering movements and moments that exist between these two states being, such as being together and separate.

On November 24th, 2017, Formulations of Assembly was held at Casa del Popolo San Quirico, Florence in collaboration with Gianluca Conti Bernini and Francesco Paoli. Documentation (video, audio files. and text) will be shared upon request. Please email homesoilprojects@gmail.com for more information. 

A Picnic on Home Soil

a durational public performance

Public space becomes private when families, lovers, and friends temporarily occupy the picnic ground. A picnic can be a practice of exclusion. Implicit in the gathering—whether through wealth, leisure, or specific cultural celebration—is a separation.

A Picnic on Home Soil 2014
London, UK | August 2014

A Picnic on Home Soil is a chance to be intimate with strangers in a public space. In this moment, we belong to this place. “Each time we enter a new place, we become one of the ingredients of an existing hybridity, which is really what all ‘local places’ consist of,” notes art critic Lucy R. Lippard.

Gone are the days of mere stranger-danger moral panic; in America, if not globally, we live precariously under regimes of fear and suspicion. Nationalistic, racist, and xenophobic actions and policies are continuing to rip communities and families apart, and as feminist writer and independent scholar Sara Ahmed warns, “There can be nothing more dangerous to a body than the social agreement that that body is dangerous.”

Seoul, ROK | September 2013

A picnic blanket is a symbolic structure. Each thread connects to the other threads. There are multiple centers: “Most of us move around a lot,” writes Lippard, “but when we move we often come into contact with those who haven’t moved around, or have come from different places.”

We call for an expansive multicenteredness, a reimagining of socialist democratic ideals and values. We do this through new models of community, radical tactics of emotionality, and a commitment to the social. A Picnic on Home Soil invites participants to partake in conviviality with strangers, intentionally mingling private lives within public spaces.

Seoul, ROK | October 2012

In this performance, not only do we look toward the horizon for inspiration, but also we attempt to make manifest horizontal ways of being together, of sharing experiences. Lippard reminds us, “By entering that hybrid, we change it, and in each situation we may play a different role.”  


April 2017

Home Soil experiences are of the people, for the people. Through collaboration and participation, Home Soil offers common ground upon which the experience of citizenship, homeland, (for the moment) no longer matters. The body is one’s home. And since utopia is a faulty design, a non-destination, we create situations where everyday subjective reality shifts. We understand the world is made up of borders; but we insist on crossing those borders: encounters that create paths you might not have taken/have been able to take.  In order to confront nationalistic tendencies we examine tensions within one’s body, one’s body in relation to others, one’s body in relation to others in spaces/sites. We live in a world where witnessing inequities is an everyday experience, live or virtual. Our work responds to this. You can do something in the present, here and now. You can experience other realities, modes of thinking, or ways of doing, so that being in the world is being in support of others.

To extend ourselves outside the art world and to position our work within different platforms, we arrange and structure projects—performances as public intervention, archives as activism, and workshops as event—in order to access as many publics as possible.

February 2015
Home Soil is a contemporary performance collective interested in staging site-specific performance art in theatre, gallery, and club spaces, and mounting public interventions addressing identity politics and human rights issues. Home Soil’s mission is to unify artistic experiences with civic participation by creating socially engaged international collaborations.

February 2013
Missions should change daily. Each new experience directs us to a different place where we might not have expected to go. In that period of time, we change. 

February 2012
Home Soil creates work
connecting the artistic process to the transformation of one’s self,
redefining the meaning of space,
engaging a co-creative audience,
believing that performance generates action.

<홈 소일>은
개인의 자아의 발전과 예술적 과정을 접목시키며
공간의 의미를 재정립하고
창조의 동역자로서 관객을 참여시키며
공연은 행동을 낳는다는 것을 믿으며
작품을 창작한다.

October 2011
Our first mission was to produce theatre by:
devising new plays that reflect and serve a diverse society in order to reclaim a sense of artistic purpose, providing entertainment that explores the mystery in ‘the Other’, enforcing the philosophy that theatre as entertainment can be personally transformative, rather than purely a means for voyeurism, promoting theatre as an engaging event where audience members can be passionate about art by defying assumptions of theatre, and 
communicating our perspective of an emerging generation that is divided between honoring tradition and adjusting to the challenges in a globalised society. 

Co-founded in February 2010 by Zoya Sardashti & Ryan M. McKelvey, Home Soil created original work in Seoul until September 2013. We operate internationally and devise pieces that resonate with diverse communities. Our goal is to encourage transformation, invite exchange, and empower individuals. Whether East or West, Home Soil builds a community.

2010년 조야 사다시티와 라이언 맥캘비가 공동 창단한 <홈 소일>은 서울에서 활동하고 있는 창작극 극단이다. 아시아와 미국 출신의 단원들로 이루어진 우리 극단은 국제적인 활동을 펼치며, 다양한 커뮤니티의 문제를 다루는 작품들을 창작하고 있다. 우리의 목표는 변형을 도모하고, 상호 교환의 장을 만들며, 개개인을 세우는 것이다. <홈 소일>은 동서양을 막론한 공동체를 세워가고 있다.