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 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 the new relationship.

Glurns Art Point, Glorenza 2016

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 the place of our departure separately on opposite sides of the path. At the end of the journey you will be invited to write about your experience inside the garment. 


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

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 an audio recording installed in the men’s restrooms and exhibited as an installation.

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

Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로) ~ public participatory 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. Participants will be invited to write, in any language, the final chapter of Learning Farsi on Teheran-ro (테헤란로). Napkins will be provided; please bring your own pen.


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

Dancing Through the Diaspora ~ participatory live art 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

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 created by the ethnically diverse community of the Iranian diaspora in Southern California. Participants will be invited to move with a performer as we revisit 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?

The climate will change. Regimes will change. Flags will change. Frames of viewing will change, and so must 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.

Venice Art House, Venice 2016


How do we dress for the weather? Ma dar che havayi che lebasi mepoosheem?

Sharayete ma cheguneh hastand? What is our condition?

What do you mean our condition? Manzoorat az sharyet cheest?

Manzooram az sharayet mogheiyyatmost. By condition I mean our situation.

I don’t know. Nemeedonam.

Manmedonam. I know.

The sun is shining. I can’t see the sun. I see the moon.

Khorshid miderakhshad.  I am freezing. 

I am burning. Man marah mebeenam.

Man daram yakh meezanam.

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

Every Four Years

A freshman Senator tweets an open letter threatening sanctions with a tap of his finger, evoking an iconic gesture,

I Want You!

A missile is released from the other side.  A gesture, an ascending thumb and index finger commanding,

His Divine Right.

Information in the virtual missives are disseminated throughout our environment generating fear and suspicion. The particles of the missile merge with our ecological atmosphere. Against our will 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. 


]performance space[ London, 2014


Chelsea Theatre, London 2014


A Picnic on Home Soil

a durational public performance

The horizon is not as far away as we think.

Public space becomes private property 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, however, will invite audiences to partake in conviviality with strangers.

On this picnic the conversation has a certain choreography. Audiences are invited to speak without assuming the role of leader. Audiences are invited to pose questions, present concerns, complain, tell jokes, or take a nap. Audiences are invited to create new rules for old games, to practise outdated forms of art, and to pick and peck at the homemade feast.

A Picnic on Home Soil creates a new landscape where the political is pleasurable without pleasure being political. In this situation speaking publicly and privately converge to form a fluid, informal, yet elevated mode of expression and sharing. Everything and everyone has a potential.

Formulations of Assembly

Workshop as Event
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 project in Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly.

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.


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