In this exhibition, Rah uses social apps as a “relational sketchbook” where she performs as Oreo to critically examine nationalism in the digital age by appropriating hashtags, visuals and symbols used by nationalists from around the world. Following hashtags such as #aryangirls #aryanbrotherhood #88 (an abbreviation adopted by neo-nazi to promote the salute “Heil Hitler”), the six images featured in the exhibition are “response pieces” to nationalists Rah found on Instagram. Some of the responses are verbatim others are recontextualized. The Oreo oeuvre predominantly focuses on the self-designation of the term aryan amongst Iranians and its related diaspora. In this work, Rah wants to broaden the conversation outside of Iranian nationalism and illustrate how extremists and nationalists from around the world use nazi iconography and coded references.
If one were to explore the hashtag aryan on Instagram, they would discover a diverse range of individuals claiming to be descendants of a superior Aryan race; Brazilan gay men, South Asians, Iranians, Polish, Swedish, Bulgarians, Americans, Germans, etc, Meanwhile, the aryan race does not exist, the Sanskrit word “arya” is an adjective that simply means noble or pure. With the racialization of the holocaust, the nazi’s capitalized the term and created an imagined race. The term Aryan in Iranian nationalist discourse is rooted in a different history (see Reza Zia Ebrahimi “Self-Orientalization and Dislocation: The Uses and Abuses of the “Aryan” Discourse in Iran.”
The Tinder Scrolls are documentation of Tinder conversations the character has had with men on the popular dating app. Oreo’s Tinder interventions are centred around identity politics. One of these two scrolls focuses on Canada’s colonial history and the celebration of Canada 150 across the country.
The 50 inch iPhone unit is mounted over a flat screen. In this Tableau Vivant, Oreo is holding the duckface pose for several minutes. At first glance, once thinks the image is a playful mimicry, but upon closer inspection, we see that in the creases on Oreo’s wrist, as if branded in her skin is a nationalist symbol. This symbol is used by pan-Iranian nationalists to promote the reunification of Iranians.
The exhibition also had a viewing station of two Oreo videos and an iPad stand where viewers could interact with the character on Instagram.
With this exhibition, Rah inspires an urgent consideration of the ethics of engagement on network technologies.