photo credit Stacie Jaye Meyer
On view June 8–August 3, 2018
Women’s Center for Creative Work presents Exit Strategies, an installation by Yasmine Diaz made in residence during our “Control” quarter.
During a summer residency at the Women’s Center for Creative Work, Yasmine Diaz explores personal, family, and cultural histories as the source material for an installation and series of public programs. Exit Strategies navigates overlapping tensions around religion, gender, and third-culture identity, through the lens of a U.S. born Yemeni-American girl. Cultural differences and their points of friction are a significant focus of Diaz’s practice. Using her own life as a starting point, Diaz creates intimate mixed-media works to explore experiences as third culture kids, a term used to describe those raised in a culture other than their parents.
“We are known to be cultural hybrids and chameleons. While many of us have an increased awareness of the world around us, we are often faced with unique challenges such as confused loyalties with regards to personal values, traditions, and politics.”
For the installation, Diaz considers adolescence, a time when many young people begin to wrestle with the concepts of control and agency in the transition to adulthood. She recreates elements of the basement bedroom she had as a teen in Chicago — a place of refuge and privacy where she and sisters felt carefree, danced and played music, and gossiped about high school crushes. This space also represents a period when she struggled with the expectations of her religiously and socially conservative Yemeni-Muslim family, as well as the everyday melodramas of a typical teenager. As she was studying for SATs and writing college application essays, an arranged marriage loomed in the background, overshadowing her future plans. It became increasingly clear that speaking up about her disconnection with Islam and desire for independence was not an option. It was in the basement that she found herself strategizing for solutions — for ways to sneak out of the house and eventually, as part of a plan to leave her family, changing her name and identity for her own protection.
By sharing her own story, Diaz highlights the necessity for dialogue amongst women of marginalized communities who have been discouraged from speaking out against patriarchal oppression. They are accused of inciting racist backlash if they seek to challenge the misogyny in their own communities, which often results in their stories being silenced. With this work, Diaz creates a space for reflection, sharing, and discussion around issues that have become increasingly taboo to discuss in the age of xenophobia.