MisplacedWomen?

Misplaced Women? A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language

In Berlin, Performances, Railway-stations, Train Station, Train stations on July 15, 2019 at 11:04 am

Contribution by: Susan Merrick 

“Misplaced Women?, A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language”, 30 minute performance by Susan Merrick

23.05.2019 Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station (Berlin, Germany)

Tanja invited me to consider presenting a performance for the Misplaced Women? project whilst I was working with her for a few days in Berlin. I’d asked Tanja if I could work with her on my own project ‘Practicing to Share’ and it seemed appropriate to actually work within each others projects during this time, to understand one another and to consider each others theme of work.

“Misplaced Women?, A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language”, a 30 minute performance by Susan Merrick, 2019. 
Video recording: Tanja Ostojić. Video editing: Susan Merrick

I spent some time thinking about what would feel appropriate, and where. How it would fit to my own idea of misplaced, my feeling of ‘place’ while in Berlin, a city I’d only visited once before as a young woman. Also my feelings of my ‘[mis]placement’ within my work as a Sign Language Interpreter, working between two cultures, between two languages, being at times ‘invisible’, yet very visible.

Rather than cultivating a performance in any way Tanja simply gave me the performance score to look over and using the rucksack I already had with me, we chose to explore Berlin train station, Gesundbrunnen that was near to where we were working. 

Susan Merrick: “Misplaced Women?”, Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station, 2019. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

I chose a position at the end of a platform. It felt quiet, intimate, and sat at a junction of two tracks. I have an affinity with train stations and much of my work has taken place in or around them. I have worked within busier positions but for this day I wanted some space and to see the location of Berlin behind me.

I began by removing my shoes and jumper. I wanted to be comfortable and to sit while I disclosed my belongings. I slowly removed each item from my bag, surprising myself by how much was in the bag that I had only emptied earlier that day (or so I thought!). Items of everyday use, but also items of specificity to the trip I was on, a camera, some shaving foam and razor – ready for some other work we were to do later – and a travel journal that I had written 17 years previously whilst on my only other visit to Berlin. 

Susan Merrick: “Misplaced Women?, A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language”, Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station, 2019. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Often I allow my surroundings to influence my actions in my work, responding to the stimuli around me. I allowed these items to do the same to me, not planning but following what the items suggested to me. I was really interested in my position between the train tracks so I decided to perform the creation of a track, placing shaving foam on my leg in a line and shaving the hair from my leg in a strip, straight like a track. I wiped it clean with a red head scarf.

I then opened up my travel journal from 2002. I read and translated into British Sign Language (BSL), some of the pages that spoke of my previous visit to Berlin. The journey into the city on the train and a visit to the zoo where we couldn’t afford the photographs that were taken of us. The language miscommunications and the laughter of the train guard who found our worries over a door not closing hilarious. Our lack of money and our exhaustion at travelling around. Our decision to sit and wait 7 hours in a hostel reception waiting for a room and our reliance on the kindness of others.

Susan Merrick: “Misplaced Women?, A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language”, Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station, 2019. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Using BSL in this way felt an appropriate challenge to the work, on a quiet platform, in a train station in Berlin, speaking only to the camera and to Tanja behind it, with no-one understanding me, using a language not native to the country, or even to me. A language that has become my profession, and that I have adopted now for over half my life, that works its way into my Art, and that I can never truly feel I belong.

Susan Merrick: “Misplaced Women?, A Translation of a Travel Diary in British Sign Language”, Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station, 2019. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Finally I took up my polaroid camera, taking a photograph of the semi circle of belongings surrounding my feet. Of Tanja watching me. Of the Train tracks reaching towards and away from me. 

Mis placed. Placed mistakenly. [Mis]placed

Lost. Unfound. In-between. Where am I?

As Artists where are we? Where do we belong? Who decides? Who finds us? Who loses us?

Susan Merrick is an Artist from the UK. She is also a Sign Language Interpreter and this profession greatly influences her performance practice.

Photos from performance on May 23, 2019 at Berlin-Gesundbrunnen Train Station were captured by Tanja Ostojić

Video recording: Tanja Ostojić.

Video editing: Susan Merrick

___________________________________________

Please visit as well other contributions and posts from Berlin, from different workshops and individual or group performances:

Contribution by Nati Canto 

Contribution by Rhea Ramjohn

Contribution by Mad Kate

Mapping around Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz

Contribution by Katja Vaghi

Contribution by LADY GABY

Contribution by Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh

Contribution by Jiachen Xu and Evdoxia Stafylaraki

Contribution by Ola Kozioł

Contribution by Татьяна Bogacheva

Older posts Berlin 2009: 

Contribution by Tanja Ostojić: Berlin, TXL Airport

and Valentina Medda: Misplaced Women?, Performa New York, 2009. Simultanious delegated perfromance with Tanja Ostojic, at Berlin TXL airport.

Advertisements

Alexandra Tatar’s Story

In Bus-stations, Stories, Telciu on May 22, 2019 at 4:57 pm

I wish the Misplaced Women? Workshop in Telciu (Transylvania, Romania) lasted longer. I wish it would have lasted at least two days longer… 

“Misplaced Women?” Workshop led by Tanja Ostojić in the frame of Telciu Summer School, Romania, 2018. Photo: Manuela Boatcă​

As I was thinking along these lines it made me realise that what I was actually looking for was not more hours to collectively embracement of the topic of displacement, but I was actually rather longing to take part in all the other conversations, the previous Misplaced project workshops as well as the ones to come… The conversations related to getting people started and acknowledging their experiences — this is precisely where the strength of the Misplaced Women? project lays for me. Needless to say, I found many of those conversations, performances and individual contributions to the Projects online platform, which I perceive as an established community, where one can always return to, revisit and share with. Ever since I left Telciu, I carried on the conversations on displacement within myself, re-thinking my previous migration experiences and artistic work — continuing basically the discussions started at the workshop till today. 😊

Tanja Ostojic’s workshop in the frame of Telciu Summer School happened on August 15, 2018. That is an ultra-religious holiday in Romania. (You can get a glimpse of it here). Thinking about the context of Romania — one of the most religious EU member states — made me think about the religious discourse in relation to women’s body as another type of displacement. The elderly women — who interfered with our workshop — coming back to Telciu with the regional evening train was actually returning from the monastery where women crawl on their knees and elbows nine times around the church for the Holy Mary holiday. They say they do that for the sake of forgiveness and having one wish come true. Weather god is more merciful than the EU is debatable, but the chances of getting one wish come true are certainly higher.

“Misplaced Women?” Workshop led by Tanja Ostojić in the frame of Telciu Summer School, Romania, 2018. Photo: Manuela Boatcă​

I’ve been exposed to violence of religious believes upon women body at the course of my first migration experience to Vienna. Coming here to study in 2011, at first I lived with two other Romanian women whom I got to know through migrant friend’s network, and they were able to offer me a room in their apartment. We were basically three independent migrant women living together, at least I thought so. Apparently, I happened to be ‘too independent’, meaning that going out at night and meeting ‘foreign’ men (although: ‘does he have a car?’ they would ask) was too much liberty in the eyes of god, and I was told I have to move out one evening, after only two weeks of living together, on the basis of my ‘lifestyle’, after going out twice. I left the same evening, putting all my belongings in two big garbage bags, and calling the ‘guy which owns a car’. Sometimes I wonder how many trash bags would I need in order to put in all my belongings now…

Besides being a violent experience, it is also a sort of a privilege, I encountered through my migration, that I’m only now able to contextualise better. Being a ‘girl’ from the East in Vienna, brings with itself certain ‘readings’ of oneself… Like for example when I got the ‘residence’ permit based on a written paper which stated that I get a small financial support from my family each month for my studies (‘small’ in Austria, but being a huge sum in Romania; as a matter of fact my family could not afford to cover any of that), the authorities perceived me the same way the bank officers did. The one who issued me a credit card as I looked like a ‘Girl from the East meets men from the West’ story; although my finances would not entitle me for one. She just told me to ‘make sure’ the money is on my account on the date they book it (all that was missing was a wink). Of course, I needed a credit card, becoming a part in the cycle of ‘permanent debt’ that maintaining of a certain way of visibility requires. It was actually easier to get a credit card then a health insurance, as I actually needed to pay for the latter, and this was not possible in the first years of my stay. 

The first travels between Austria and Romania, after moving here, I did by bus. The travel was 10-11 hour, all night long. One had to change a bus at midnight in Budapest. And the bus going to Romania would actually stop behind the bus station, and one was supposed to wait for the bus (which would hopefully come) on a dark street corner. I remember one time right there, a young foreign student was waiting for another bus which was to bring his girlfriend from Poland to Budapest and was getting pretty anxious as the bus was late. He asked if he could use my phone to call his girlfriend. And although I understood his concerns, I was unable to borrow my phone, as I was travelling without any money (what my Austrian boyfriend never understood, as he could not grasp the concept of not having money after paying for a ticket), and the little credit I had on the phone was my only safe net in case something went wrong. I have often thought about those precarious times, and now after the workshop and seeing the Misplaced project performances at bus stops, and the solidarity between migrants, I thought of weather I was a selfish person, deciding I was not being able to help, prioritising myself that time. Both buses (the one bringing his girlfriend and the one taking me to Romania) arrived shortly after, but the question stayed open with me until this day.

Theas are my thoughts after the workshop, that I am very grateful to have taken part in, and it will definitely inform my thinking and artistic practice to come. I think marking displacement experiences by performing them, writing about them, telling about them, let us not forget nor ignore, and more importantly enable us to understand, acknowledge and act in solidarity. 

Text by Alexandra Tatar

Edited and first published by Tanja Ostojic 2018/19 on the Misplaced Women? blog

_____________________

Alexandra Tatar is an artist born in Romania, currently living in Vienna. She is a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, on the topic of post-soviet subjectivities. She received MA in Visual Arts from the same faculty in 2016 with MA thesis: The [physical] [impossibility] of [women] in the [world] of [someone] [living] with Ashley Hans Scheirl. In her art practice she explores communicational codes and conventions of mainstream culture and their influence on the construction of imagery and identities.

_____________________

The “Misplaced Women?” Workshop led by Tanja Ostojić took place on August 15, 2018, in the frame of Telciu Summer School, in Telciu, Romania. Workshop participants included: Manuela Boatcă, Laura Covaci, Iulia Dinescu, Veronica Enusca, Iulia Ilie, Adina Marinescu, Alina Marincea, Simion Septimiu Mihai, Alise Monica Marinescu, Bogdan Popa, Veda Popovici, Alexandra Tatar.  

Please visit this link to experience More about the Telciu itinerary of the workshop:

Telciu Summer School

In Telciu, Train stations, Workshops on May 22, 2019 at 4:13 pm

The “Misplaced Women?” Workshop Telciu itinerary led by Tanja Ostojić took place on August 15, 2018, in the frame of Telciu Summer School, in Romania. 

Workshop participants included: Manuela Boatcă, Laura Covaci, Iulia Dinescu, Veronica Enusca, Iulia Ilie, Adina Marinescu, Alina Marincea, Simion Septimiu Mihai, Alise Monica Marinescu, Bogdan Popa, Veda Popovici, Alexandra Tatar between others.

Misplaced Women? Workshop led by Tanja Ostojić on August 15, 2018, in the frame of Telciu Summer School, Romania

Please visit this link to see the contribution of one of the workshop’s participants: Alexandra Tatar’s Story

This page is currently in development. More information, documentation, reflections and visuals are still to come…

Video: Ana Maria Ang

Workshop Coordination: Ágota Ábrán

%d bloggers like this: