Cultural conversations from Iran to America
This project used graphic design to explore the experience of an individual attempting to bridge two countries’ distinctly different cultures: Iran and the United States. Each has a particular political relation to the other in history. I used graphic design as a tool to compare specific and various aspects of the two cultures and how these aspects impact each other based on my personal experience.I used design to explore my place in between two cultures as a way to make a sense of the exchange or replacement of culture that I perceived.This project demonstrates collation and confrontation of cultural and social elements through the application of design to a set of culturally symbolic objects. The goal is to utilize graphic design tools to elevate awareness about illustrating the cultural and traditional aspects of the two countries. This exhibition was divided four different works: McTradition, Shopping Spree, Birds of a feather and Tarof.
McTradition focuses on food topics, because food and eating are fundamental to culture and bring the commonalities and distinctions of people across the world to light. A new set of American fast food packaging represents a mash-up of cultures, based on contemporary Iranian culture’s extreme interest in westernization and my own personal life in the United States. Four sets of fast food packages are placed on a large Persian rug. The set is designed for four people to symbolize a family sitting together for a meal. I wanted to show that being with family is one of the cornerstones of Iranian culture. I created in the gallery a traditional Iranian dining room where meals are often taken sitting on the floor. Hamburger and French fry packaging and a drink cup are placed on a plastic fast food tray with a paper liner and then placed on a tablecloth on the floor.
The second part of the exhibition is about my personal experience with the shopping system in the United States. As a person new to this country, who was fascinated by this issue and tends to go shopping a lot, I see how one can be absorbed by capitalism and become caught up in the materialism of society. I endeavored to display my challenges with spending money through the creation of a work entitled Shopping Spree. Shopping Spree is a large (36x55 inches) facsimile of a credit card printed on rigid plastic and hung on the wall. It is designed with the same Persian branded motif as the fast food packages. Text of common phrases used to promote spending more money, create the visual background of card. My face is used as a logo in the middle of credit card along with my personal information including name, date of birth, the date of my entrance to the U.S., and the valid date that I can stay in America during my studies. This project is an attempt to convey the message of multiple cultural influences in terms of my personal experience.
Birds of a Feather
Birds of a Feather investigates the similarities and differences in proverbs and idioms in Iranian and American culture especially in folk language. This piece has variable dimensions, but is intended to be displayed on facing walls. Each wall has twelve idioms, made from cut vinyl in a process typical of commercial signage. I have placed western (largely American) idioms on one wall with the dominant type reading in English and its Farsi translation immediately below. On the opposite wall I have reversed the process by displaying Iranian idioms in Farsi along with their English translations. In this configuration the viewer can see and compare American idioms with the Persian equivalents. My intention is to show the similarities of tradition and thought expressed in all of its sameness and subtle difference so that audiences of both languages might see themselves reflected in the other. Using the letterforms of the two languages employs graphic design to convey messages that can be a bridge between the two cultures.
The fourth piece in the exhibition is a short 2-minute video entitled Tarof, which plays from a ceiling-mounted projector. This is a kinetic typography, animation video that tries to provide a basis for understanding this particular Iranian custom, which is subtle, and unclear to the outsider. Tarof is a traditional Iranian etiquette practice. It governs the way people act when offering food or consideration to others, buying or selling things and negotiating in conversation. this piece depicts humorous conversation between two people.One of them is a guest and the other one is the host. The host offers food to his guest, and gradually insists that he eat more and more to be sure that his guest is eating enough. Eventually this back and forth conversation causes annoyance and the guest wants to leave.