I became a refugee at age five when my family and I, together with 70,000 migrants of the Bosnian Genocide, moved to the middle of America. From the moment we arrived, this vast American space demanded we analyze ourselves against its rules, its beliefs, its creeds. This included reckoning with the privileges of being read as white in America. We became Bosnian-American, grappling with each end of the hyphen in order to fit within this new homeland.
My work surveys the lives of Muslim refugees and immigrants from across the Balkan Diaspora. I contextualize the Bosnian-American relationship to the social, cultural and political identities inside xenophobic culture. I am interested in the construction of synthesized cultural identities as a result of the interplay between shared religious and political history with the effects of forced migration.
I often turn the camera on my family to create subject matter. I employ historical research, memoir interviews and a range of disciplinary perspectives to raise social, political and personal questions: How does sociopolitical trauma affect the way we narrate ourselves? How do unbalanced power relations and privilege affect the social production of space? How do our ideals and visions of democracy engage with our notions of belonging? By adding old family photos and familial memorabilia, I invite the audience to read images against a background of historical conditions and individual lives.
My work depicts the confluence of contemporary and traditional values decontextualized from place and time. The image “Red Chair” resides in a newly renovated mosque with features—such as the repeat-patterned carpet—produced to resemble ancient islamic aesthetics. Nearly hidden to the side, a camera mounted to the wall inspects the looker. I am inviting the viewer to consider the continuous re-contextualization of space: is it an American mosque, a foreign mosque in America, or prying WASP American eyes overseeing a mosque? Much like the juxtaposition of the identities around the hyphen, the images express an imaginary landscape of multiculturalism.
Aida Hasanović is a Bosnian-American artist and writer currently based in St. Louis, MO. Her work explores how different issues of memory and migration interact in the re-construction of a synthesized cultural identity. Her practice weaves from working in photography, bookmaking and video. Aida’s recent work and research investigates how sociopolitical trauma and historical circumstances affect our notions of belonging. Hasanović’s work has been exhibited locally and nationally including the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, SRLBX in Columbia and Cherry Gallery in Richmond, VA.