Soheila Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario. Esfahani has received numerous awards and grants including the Research/Creation Grant in Fine Arts through Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. As part of the SSHRCC grant, Esfahani is currently a participant in a research/creation group entitled Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds: Engaging Water as Culture and Resource through Contemporary Art. Esfahani’s work is represented in public and private collections including the Canada Council’s Art Bank. She works from her studio at Kitchener’s artist–run centre, Globe Studios.
Esfahani’s art practice navigates the terrains of cultural translation with a specific focus on translational activities that occur in the art practices of culturally diverse contemporary artists within the context of Western society. Her work explores the processes involved in cultural transfer and transformation by exploring the theoretical frameworks of Walter Benjamin’s concept of translation as a departure from the original and Homi Bhabha’s notions of the Third Space and in-betweeness. In her art practice, Esfahani explores the notion of Third Space not only as an abstract concept, but also as an actual site produced in installation art, where the viewer has to negotiate the artist’s intervention.
In her recent installations, Esfahani often incorporates shipping pallets to refer to the concept of translation as the transfer of culture. Cultured Pallets series are transient installations which grow out of her ongoing process of marking shipping pallets with an email address ( email@example.com) and a variety of collected motifs and designs. The cultured pallets are then sent back into circulation. She completes the project by tracking the pallets after they leave the exhibition and engaging in correspondence with the individuals who find them. These installations focus on the notion of translation in its etymological meaning as the process of ‘carrying across’ and employ shipping pallets as metaphors for the transfer of units of ‘culture.’