Glendale Library, Arts and Culture presents “the sound of your voice is home” by multidisciplinary artist Yasmine Nasser Diaz in ReflectSpace Gallery and “My Life From the Grounds Up” by artist Helena Grigorian in the PassageWay Gallery.
Inspired by a family practice of exchanging audio cassettes between Chicago and Yafa, Yemen, Diaz’s latest installation invites visitors into a ritual, gathering and listening space. The setting, an ’80s era kitchen, is a nod to her childhood and a time long before the ubiquity of cellphones. Communicating with family in the highlands of southern Yemen from the U.S. was challenging. Only one house in the family’s village had a telephone, making access and coordination difficult. Instead of long-distance calls, her family would gather around the kitchen table to record lengthy audio messages on cassette tapes. The messages included updates on the health of relatives, news of engagements, pregnancies, births, and the latest local scandal.
“The sound of your voice is home” pays tribute to the evolving ways communities of diaspora maintain connectivity and affectionate exchanges while separated by time and distance. Upon entering the space, visitors will hear a collection of audio recordings in different voices and languages playing on a loop. The clips have been gathered from immigrant friends, acquaintances, and family, including recollections of different familial practices and clips from actual voice messages between relatives. The stories shared reflect varying temporalities, from the past and present, further evoking the importance of storytelling in producing and maintaining communal memories. The physical setting pays homage to the kitchen as the heart of the home and the core domestic space for conversation, nourishment, reconciliation, and care. A Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant supports Diaz’s exhibition.
Grigorian has fond childhood memories of her family and friends drinking Armenian coffee, quickly turning over the demitasse cups and waiting for the grounds to dry. Once dry, a coffee cup “interpreter” would read the grounds and divine the future and fate of the coffee cup drinker. Every coffee klatch had a designated coffee cup interpreter – each known for her distinct style. A few even achieved great renown in their coffee-drinking circles for their uncanny intuition to tell the future. When they picked up a cup to begin “reading,” a pregnant hush, full of anticipation and excitement, would fall over the entire room of women.
“The sound of your voice is home” and “My Life From the Grounds Up” runs from May 31 to July 23. The exhibits are open to the public during regular library hours.
ReflectSpace is a hybrid space that is both experiential and informative, employing art, technology, and interactive media to reflect on the past and present of Glendale’s communal fabric and interrogate current-day global human rights issues. ReflectSpace is housed in Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St., and online at ReflectSpace.org.