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    Katayoun Amjadi: The Names We Change

  • Dates: October 27, 2021 - March 20, 2022
  • Time: 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
  • Location: Rochester Art Center


The Names We Change is a solo exhibition by Katayoun Amjadi featuring installations and interactive artworks about naming, identity, otherness and community. 

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, artist Katayoun Amjadi invites the members of the public to share their name stories. The artist will both facilitate and record interviews of participants via Zoom. These video interviews will become part of future iterations of The Names We Change. 

Naming is the first act of calling into being and thus one of the original signifiers of identity formation, placing the individual in contextual relationship with culture, race, gender, and ethnicity. It is a symbolic contract between the individual and society and confirms the individual’s existence and society’s obligation and responsibility to the individual, and the individual’s implicit acceptance to the society.

Our history precedes us through our name as a kind of referential boundary, yet also liberates us to our self-identity, wherein our own meanings and aspirations well up and push through the membranes and layers of history, gender, culture and memories. It is an act of unfolding that is at once dynamic, creative and original, yet one whose origination is also fixed to family, language, history and place.

The Names We Change is a series of video interviews investigating myriad responses from those in marginalized communities, immigrants, diasporas, and LGBTQ communities to identity transformation in the way first names are kept or changed. To the sometimes leveling effect of cultural hegemony these responses can be seen as erasures or disclosures, as sites of rebellion or acceptance. This project is interested in discovering both coherence and fracture; of how our names gather our sense of belonging, yet can also become a source of tension, contradiction and rupture, or humor and creative negotiation.

Within these interviews one will hear the arbitration of identity as a lived experience that can range in discourse and effect from responses of efficacy, humor and  convenience, to deflection and deviation, to resistance, opposition and provocation, to those of a deeper personal grounding.

The responses to this are as varied as the people that usher them into being. Frequently one will then have two or more names that correlate to the circumstance of use. Indeed as seen in some of the interviews there is a “Starbucks” name: convenient, easy to pronounce, disposable. As one of the interviewees notes: “You can be anybody at Starbucks.”

This project serves as a platform for marginalized voices to engage with the public in a dialogue of reciprocal awareness and insight, and share in an experience that can be fraught with the sense of otherness and alienation, yet often met with remarkable personal creativity and humor. The intention is to begin to build bridges where gaps and rifts may be the norm. These are small, but not insignificant, gestures of community and conviviality.


Katayoun Amjadi is an Iranian-born, Minneapolis-based artist, educator and independent curator. In her artworks, she often considers the social systems that continually construct the binaries which shape our perceptions of Self and Other, such as religion, gender, politics and nationalist ideologies. Katayoun is interested in blurring these boundaries and create a balanced hybrid style both in life and art. Her art is an attempt to understand the relationship between past and present, tradition and modernity, and individual versus collective identity, as well as to spur discussion about our understanding of time and the tangled roots of our histories. She holds an MFA in Ceramics and Sculpture from the University of Minnesota and currently teaches as faculty of art at Normandale Community College. Her work has been exhibited in several group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally, including Minnesota Museum of American Arts, Rochester Art Center, Weisman Art Museum, South Dakota Museum of Art, The Soap Factory, Saint Thomas University, Public Functionary, Beijing Film Academy, Karlsruhe Art Academy and Haft Samar Art Gallery in Tehran. Katayoun is a 20/21 MCAD-Jerome Emerging Artist Fellow and recipient of the Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board for fiscal years 2015 and 2019.


This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


Image: The Names We Change: Transit-Air, 2020
Re-purposed airplane seats, iPads, HD video interviews, headphones, Namezines (Printed magazine for Transit-Air installation)
6.5’ x 8’x 4’

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