In Letter to My Father Franz Kafka uses parricide (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. If you inherited only your father’s family name how would it change the way you self-identify, interact with others and perceive the world if you had inherited your mother’s family name instead? With the participant’s permission this experience will be documented, so traces of the dialogue will be handwritten on the walls and the audio recording exhibited in the men’s restrooms (if the restrooms are not gender inclusive) as a sound installation.
This performance was first shared in Florence, Italy in 2017 for the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation Conference. Later it was installed at The Grand in Los Angeles and for artistic programming at Mare Culturale Urbano in Milan during 2018.
Parricida links values of gender equality to religious inclusion through practices of care in order to counteract violent, patriarcal behaviors that are replicated in familial and social life. It also seeks to dismantle conventional gender roles that continue to oppress people who identify as female and non-binary through a re-naming of one’s family lineage. The action of re-naming oneself according to a maternal family line shifts a certain level of consciousness that breaks a relation to male dominated conventions and norms. Oftentimes for people who identify as female our histories are under-recognized, misrepresented, and framed as stories of suffering in dominant narratives. Inviting people to narrate their mother’s family’s side amplifies these histories.
The dialogues are documented through writing and photography. Writing on the mirrors and walls of public bathrooms are photographed and made public. After participants write their first name and mother’s family name or both the mother and father’s family names, I take a photograph of their reflection in the new name. Participants are asked to only share these photographs with family members.