ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Amy Khoshbin

You’re not brown, just tan.

"You're not brown, just tan" challenges the notions of how we construct our cultural heritage and identity through an installation of hybrids: suburban/Iranian mash-ups in sculpture and video.

Dataflow Programming for Projects,Project Development Studio (Marina Zurkow),Thesis

Being raised as a Baha’i half-Iranian woman in an Evangelical Texan suburb created a sense of disassociation from and confusion about my cultural heritage and identity. “You’re not brown, just tan,” investigates these perceptions of cultural heritage through exploring childhood memories, family legacy, and media imagery. The project proposes new forms of hybridity via Iranian memory objects and videos created out of the material of the Texan suburbs where I grew up. These components will manifest in a comprehensive multimedia installation, recreating an imagined Iranian/suburban home space. The sculptures in the space are suburban/Iranian mash-up memory objects: a Persian rug made of suburban couch upholstery, roses made of Christmas wrapping paper, a backgammon board made from my childhood Monopoly board, and calligraphy designed using kid’s Crayola markers. I also have created a series of videos to screen in the space on a television set I am constructing. These videos are designed in different television styles (cooking show, horror movie trailer, music video) for consumption in the medium I consumed while shaping my identity.

Artists such as Sara Rahbar have influenced my work. In going back and forth between Iran and America, an apocalyptic memory has been revised in her reworking of traditional materials into proto-contemporary textiles and textures of national belonging. (Shaheen Merali

Ghada Amer is another artist who inspired my cultural exploration of “otherness,” both as an Iranian-American and as a woman developing her identity. “The work refuses to bow to the puritanical elements of both Western and Islamic culture, and what could be called institutionalized feminism," with its own persistent myth of feminine virtue” (Ghada Amer, 2004,

Jackie Salloum works around perceptions of Arabic identity in the media. (Jackie Salloum, 2004

Sociological essays of Iranian-American diaspora identity have influenced me as well: Nilau Mostofi with his essay “Who We Are: The Perplexity of Iranian-American Identity.” Ali Akbar Mahdi and his essay "Ethnic Identity among Second-Generation Iranians in the United States." William Connolly's "Identity/Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox." Many others are in my bibliography, but I will list more later.

Anyone interested in exploring cultural perceptions and identity formation in an immersive environment.

User Scenario
A user enters the first space, looks around, feels uncomfortable. They look into the interior space and realize it's too full, so they sit and wait in the waiting room, pick up a magazine and browse through. When the users exit the interior space, they enter and go into a hybrid awkward world where they drink tea, eat candy, consume media, interact with the sculptures and release the memories of my youth and identity. This will hopefully challenge their notions of Iran and how they perceive both Iranian culture, but cultural identity in America in general. Once they are done interacting, they leave the space, allowing others to enter.

The actual installation will consist of a space within a space. The exterior space will seem like a suburban waiting room- a few chairs, white walls, plants in a row. This represents the exterior world we assimilate into- generic, depersonalized. Also, in the spirit of Iranian architecture, it will serve as a courtyard space. The interior structure will have fabric walls, a Persian rug (made out of suburban floral couch upholstery) on the floor covered in pillows and sculptural objects that represent my memories and perceptions of Iranian culture as told through a suburban American lens. The objects I am making currently are a backgammon board made out of a Monopoly game board, roses made out of Christmas wrapping paper, a Persian rug made out of suburban floral couch upholstery, a samovar made out of Diet Coke cans, bowls of candy, tea cups, etc. There are also videos playing in the space I've created in different television formats (a cooking show, a commercial, a PSA, a soap opera) to be consumed by the viewer as I consumed television to form my identity.