"Pleasant Pain" Gathering

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On June 25th, ARTogether hosted a social gathering and explorative workshop for individuals involved in “Pleasant Pain,” a dance presentation choreographed by Iranian dancer Aisan Hoss. Hosted at the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants, the workshop sought to explore notions of home, immigration, and identity--ideas that manifest emotionally through Hoss’ choreography. “Pleasant Pain” draws from oral history interviews that Hoss has conducted with nearly thirty young Iranian émigrés who have recently migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area. Like Hoss, the interviewees are part of Iran’s “new generation” - those born in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The choreographic process and community building efforts of The Pleasant Pain explore individual and collective memories of home and how these memories and one’s sense of identity transform after migration.

 

As part of this community building effort, the workshop gathered a group of these interviewees, dancers, and researchers. The goal of the gathering was to build long lasting relations among community members through the sharing of experiences about issues surrounding migration and dislocation. Sahar Sadighpour, a social worker who specializes in mental health and trauma, lead the 90 minute workshop.  

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After introductions and group guideline brainstorming, the workshop participants were divided into two groups. All participants could wander to the “belonging vs visitor” table, a shared group art project in which people could pin up sticky notes with their thoughts, poems, stories, drawings, or cut-out pictures that explored the difference between visiting a place versus belonging to a place, discussing the ways in which a home (or lack thereof) impacts one’s sense of self.

 

For 25 minutes, Group 1 read a passage of Bernie Brown’s work on feelings of shame and isolation. They discussed the relationships between Brown’s concepts and their own immigration experiences. They then discussed shame trigger points in their subcultures from Iran as well as the shame trigger points in the culture they landed as immigrants. At the same time, Group 2 explored expectations versus reality in their immigration experiences. They were prompted by writing samples on their table that read “when I got here…how I see things now,” etc., and could then write their own statements of experience. Group 2 discussed the theme further, including trends in expectation versus reality and how to reconcile divergences between the two. For the next 15 minutes, the two groups had a shared discussion, reporting their findings and looking at the collaborative art board for recurring themes.

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The last activity, which took 10 minutes, consisted of a collaborative story beginning with “when I got here…” and continuing with each participant adding a sentence to the story. The participants then read over the story and discussed. In the final 5 minutes the participants completed a “Dear me” project, in which they wrote a sentence or two of advice for their past selves prior to departing for the States and the wisdom they have since gained to deal with gaps in expectation versus reality and feelings of isolation.