ABOVE: Installation view of The Moon Belongs to Everyone at Filter Space. Photo by Caitlin M. Peterson.

Fragments of Nostalgia, Tender & Sharp

Christina Nafziger

Distance is a fickle thing. There is, of course, physical distance that one must travel when going from one place to another. But how is distance felt? Once we arrive at our destination, how does this new landscape disrupt our perception, our identity, our sense of home? How is distance altered through time? In the exhibition The Moon Belongs to Everyone, Stacy Arezou Mehrfar confronts distance by exploring the experience of immigration/emigration, capturing a dislodged, disembodied notion of belonging. For Mehrfar, this type of experience is felt firsthand, as a first-generation Iranian-American who lived in New York City before emigrating to Australia. Having a connection to several different places in the world can cause a feeling of scattered identity, of being pulled in several different directions. This sensation can be poignantly seen in Mehrfar’s photographic work included in the exhibition.

Against the backdrop of a dark black wall, each photograph is hung salon style–a constellation of memories trickled across the night sky. Like memories, one cannot experience these images in a clear, straightforward way. Instead, we are left to absorb what we can, as Mehrfar has removed them from their context. A flock of birds fluttering across a night sky, a lone hand holding peels of an orange, remnants of a torn book left on the ground. Each image reads like a fragmented memory, one that has been altered by the sheer distance of home. And like memories, the artist presents these photos as nonlinear, replicating the experience of being in an unfamiliar place for so long. Where did I see that flock of birds? Whose hand do I remember holding orange peels? Where is that book I dropped–Australia, New York City? In Mehrfar’s photographs, distance and time become collapsed and unfolded again as the uncanniness of belonging settles.

There is something haunting (or perhaps, haunted) in The Moon Belongs to Everyone. Many of the images are skewed in some way–sometimes revealing just a fragment of a larger scene. Other times they are in black and white, taken in the dark, covering most of the image in shadow; an absence that weighs heavy on the subject. Sometimes the images are taken so close up that the resulting photo appears to be just a brilliant block of color, instead of the flower Mehrfar is photographing. Each image oscillates between revealment and concealment, a familiar dance for those trying to find home and belonging in an unfamiliar place. Perhaps the most emotional of the photographs are Mehrfar’s portrait-like images. Each subject is looking slightly away from the camera, appearing to be half in thought, in mid-motion, frozen in time and space between one state and the next. The expression on each person’s face is so specific, so full of uncertainty, that I was compelled to ask Mehrfar what each person is doing in the photo–what are they experiencing? She explained that, before taking the shot, she instructed each person to sing a song that reminds them of home. The outcome: a rush of emotions, tender and sharp nostalgia, a look that shows us that the person is far away–distance taking the reins once again.

Now living in New York City after years away, Mehrfar again experiences this constant feeling of being in two places at once. Identity is not fixed, memories change. Like memory, distance can alter our sense of identity–even if that distance is erased. Achingly and bittersweet, Mehrfar shows us that, even when you return ‘home’, distance remains.

Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, #111015, 2015

Installation view of The Moon Belongs to Everyone at Filter Space. Photo by Caitlin M. Peterson.

Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, A Place in the Sun #32, 2016

Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, Memory #1, 2015



Christina Nafziger (she/her) is a Chicago-based arts writer and editor who is interested in artists with research-based practices, the effect archiving has on memory and identity, and the ways in which archiving can alter and edit future histories.

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