Afghan-Amer­i­can brings im­mi­grant tales to Times Square

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

They may be fast dis­ap­pear­ing from the streets of New York, but an Afghan-Amer­i­can artist has in­stalled pub­lic tele­phone booths in Times Square to spot­light the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence in Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica. New York to­day boasts no more than four pub­lic phone booths, the last ves­tiges of a pre cell-phone era. The ar­rival of three in Times Square as part of Aman Mo­ja­didi’s “Once Upon a Place” in­stal­la­tion has nearly dou­bled that num­ber.

Passers by can pick up the hand­set, but can­not talk. In­stead they lis­ten. At the end of the line are the voices of New York­ers telling their per­sonal sto­ries of im­mi­gra­tion-le­gal or il­le­gal­from around the world. Mo­ja­didi asked each to nar­rate their ex­pe­ri­ences in their own lan­guage for a max­i­mum of 15 min­utes, with­out in­ter­rupt­ing with any ques­tions. Nor has their tes­ti­mony been trans­lated into English. “Even if you don’t un­der­stand the lan­guage, you can feel the emo­tion as if it is a song maybe,” he ex­plained to AFP.

The art project boasts more than five hours of record­ings from 70 dif­fer­ent New York­ers and will re­main in Times Square un­til Septem­ber 5. Mo­ja­didi first started work­ing on the project in 2014, well be­fore Trump ran for pres­i­dent and un­leashed ve­he­ment rhetoric against unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants and took of­fice at­tempt­ing to re­strict im­mi­gra­tion from cer­tain Mus­lim coun­tries. The shift­ing po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment saw Mo­ja­didi scrap ini­tial plans to dot the project around the city and hold for­mal work­shops in dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. He said his sub­jects be­came “very ner­vous” about the idea.

“‘Why do we need to come there? Who else is go­ing to be there?’” he quoted them as say­ing. “In the end, it was all very one on one. So the way I im­ple­mented the project changed a lot.” Nor is the choice of tele­phone booths in­signif­i­cant. “When I learned how phone booths were start­ing to be re­moved from the streets, not just in New York but in other cities around the world, I im­me­di­ately thought about all of the sto­ries that are trapped in­side of th­ese phones,” he said. “I thought of a nat­u­ral way to bring sto­ries back to the streets by us­ing the phone booths, bring back the spirit of the phone booths.”— AFP

NEW YORK: Peo­ple lis­ten in a phone booth, part of the ‘Once Upon a Place’ art in­stal­la­tion by Afghan-Amer­i­can artist Aman Mo­ja­didi in New York’s Times Square. The in­ter­ac­tive pub­lic art in­stal­la­tion al­lows au­di­ences to step into au­then­tic re­pur­posed New York City tele­phone booths, pick up the re­ceiver and lis­ten to per­sonal sto­ries of im­mi­gra­tion straight from the New York­ers who lived them. —AFP

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