Moslem is Family, vinyl billboard, 17 x 9 ft

Costume Party at the Moslem Temple, 2019

Appropriating Arab, Islamic and Middle-Eastern props, characters, images, names, spaces, architecture and tropes for their secret society, rituals and public parades, Shriner parades feature exaggerated and overtly orientalist Arab characters and themes. Steeped in these images, I wonder: How do the Shriners see the use and consumption of such images of the Arab subject? And more importantly how do these images serve the U.S.’s endless war with and in the Middle East? What does it mean to have a billboard and a float in one space? How is a float a billboard? What is being advertised in a parade? What does it mean for me to do research in a place called a Moslem Temple and to dance there? How can I or should I become a part of it, to embody it, to use my senses to understand and laugh at this locale? What does the Mystic Order of the Shriners have to do with a Playboy Bunny? What does orientalism have to do with sexism? What is lost and gained in the American dream for the local Arab artists, artisans and shopkeepers embedded safely within the rich diaspora of their relocated cultures and community here?

The Shriners, formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a fraternal order organized around the principles of “fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth,” was established in 1870 by founders Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence. Taking many drawings and notes at a party in Cairo, Fleming built his sect of Freemasons, The Shriners, on the pillars of festivities and frivolity. In Arab Middle Eastern history shrines, however, comprise buildings that often house the tombs of prophets, imams and other notable religious figures and have become symbolic spaces for culture, religion, politics, and national identities, due to their sacred and holy status to believers.

Full statement here.

Turath aw Hadara
17:30 minute video, collaboration with Jose Luis Benavides

Using Format