Singing for Social Change
By Jazmyn Gray
Photo courtesy of Rashin Fahandej
The sound exhibit “A Father’s Lullaby” by Rashin Fahandej, 41, is anything but soothing. An ongoing project, the project’s title belies its seriousness. When entering the exhibit, it’s made immediately obvious this is not a space for voices — not yours, at least. The men on the screens are speaking now. It’s finally their turn.
There’s no easy way to describe the heaviness of this exhibit.
Visitor Isabelle Yap (SAR ‘23) said, “I was trying to hold in my tears the whole time.”
“A Father’s Lullaby,” seeks to demonstrate the toll mass incarceration takes on families by documenting personal experiences. What the project website terms “A Poetic Movement for Social Justice, ” is incredibly profound. Fahandej intertwines stories, songs, and faces of impacted community members to instigate change.
According to Fahandej’s official website, this exhibit is built on “love and intimacy,” not anger. And while that may have been just as valid, the project works with men (and, at times, women) who’ve experienced the unimaginable to convey hope — hope for a change, a new life, and a better future.
“A Father’s Lullaby” has three components. The first being a 26-minute video and sound installation that dominates the room. It’s projected on every wall and the video becomes the space. The second is a collection of interactive panels where you put your hand on the panel, reminiscent of how you would when visiting an inmate, and they speak to you. They tell you their story. What makes this especially powerful is the way the panel lights up, allowing you to see the fingerprints of everyone who has interacted with it before. You can see the impact, reach, and complexity of Fahandej’s art. The final is a way to get involved. Fahandej’s exhibit is an ongoing process and she continues to hear and add new experiences. The exhibit offers visitors an opportunity to share their own story. To sing their own lullaby. To be heard.
Iranian-American artist Rashin Fahandej is currently a Research Fellow at MIT in the Open Documentary Lab and an Assistant Professor at Emerson College. Fahandej’s art can be defined by its commitment to social justice, according to the Institute of Contemporary Art.
It’s important to note the artist, Fahandej, lives in Boston which means that her project is comprised entirely of marginalized and, perhaps most astonishingly, local voices. And for good reason. Because while Massachusetts may have one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country, Jessica Simes, a BU Assistant Professor of Sociology in 2017 found that “areas covering only 15 percent of Massachusetts’ population make up about half its prison admissions.” The people who are being incarcerated are coming from historically marginalized communities, and “economically depressed” situations. The exhibit may explicitly argue against mass incarceration, but Fahandej’s structure seeks to expose the Mass. issue as well.
You can check out “A Father’s Lullaby” at the Institute of Contemporary Art (free with your BU ID!) before it’s gone at the end of the year. If looking for more information, visit the project’s official website and if you have been personally affected by mass or targeted incarceration, share your story there too.