MisplacedWomen?

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

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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.

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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:

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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

The International Women’s Day contribution by Tan Tan

In Gent, Performances on March 16, 2019 at 12:56 pm

A Pink River, the International Women’s Day contribution by Tan Tan is a story (as she says) —about a “misplaced woman” who comes from China and currently lives in Belgium, who attempts to find her place as a foreign woman despite all the stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings.

This poetic performance has been created in direct response to the “MISPLACED WOMEN?”: “Score 1 – Unpacking a Bag of Your Own”, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić (ongoing since 2009). Tan Tan was initially supposed to realise it in China in the frame of “Trouble Diaries, a political statement” at Big House, Wuhan, China (2017–18), an exhibition that was curated by Dermis Leon, in which Ostojić took part. As Ostojić was not able to travel to China, Tan Tan has been delegated to interpret her “Misplaced Women?” performance in the public space. 

Tan Tan who is doing her PhD in Belgium, decided to build in her perspective on stereotypes from the Westerners towards Chinese, exposing her vulnerable status as a foreign Asian woman living in this developed but closed society. And so she has finally chosen to perform it in Gent in the feminist context of the annual manifestation against sexism on The International Women’s Day, as she was particularly curious about reception of her performance in the context of this woman’s rights event. Would they embrace someone from different perspective to join their struggle? Here is what she has done and how she reflected a pone it. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

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A Pink River
60 min performance by Tan Tan
March 8, 2018, Stadshal, Gent, Belgium
Duration: 1 hour

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At 7 pm, on March 8, 2018, I arrived to the central plaza of Gent with my large suitcase that I normally use for international travels. After several days of rain, there was a splendid sunset but also fierce wind running around the city. In half an hour, the biggest annual manifestation against sexism in this city would start from under the roof of a pavilion of the city hall.

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

I started unpacking my suitcase near one of the pavilions gates. First I took out a tablecloth and put it on the floor, then I placed many of my stuff on it, such as toiletries, cosmetics, candles and some Chinese convenience foods. More and more people came and passed by me, most of them were women, including socialist activists, feminist fighters, and lesbians. In front of them, I started to put some make-up on my face, as if I was in my bedroom. After that, I ate some Chinese pickles with a toast, and then put on my pyjamas. I slept for a while with a panda toy in my arms, with all the messy stuff around me. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At about 7.30 pm, the square was already full of people, holding diverse slogans and flags for women’s rights. On the stage, the leader of the manifestation began her speech that was to encourage people to do actions together. So I “woke up” to the loud sound, and started to draw out a piece of very long narrow pink cloth out of my suitcase. I unfolded it, and placed it on the ground. Soon, the people were surprised to find out  that an Asian woman was spreading a seemingly endless piece of cloth in the middle of the crowd, which compulsively divided them into two sides. Some women actually helped me in a friendly manner to spread the cloth. After a long way squeezing among the people, I set the “end” of the cloth somewhere near the stage, so the cloth kind of resembled a “red carpet”.

Right after, I ran back to the suitcase, took out some flashy clothes and put them on, to begin a “cat walk”. I wore some traditional Chinese clothes between others, and lifted a Chinese lantern over my head, with a background music of the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”. I walked several times back and forth, and gradually removed layers of clothes, until just few kind of “sexy” summer clothes left on my body. 

During the performance, some people noticed that there was a hand written text along side of the pink cloth, while majority kept focused on the speeches going on on the stage. This is the text I wrote on the cloth for this occasion:

I’m a woman
I’m made in China
But I’m not cheap

I’m a woman
I like shopping
But I’m not a commodity

I’m a woman
I work like man
But I don’t get the same (pay*)

I’m a woman 
I sleep with man
But I deserve my own place

After a while, the crowd departed for the parade, left me standing on the pink “carpet” with some balloons in my hand. The same place which was fully packed became completely empty. Only the wind was still turning around. Suddenly, I punched the balloons one by one. And the sounds of bursted out balloons spread all over the square. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

Then, I removed another layer of my clothes and ended up in a nightgown. With a gust of wind, I lifted the cloth that flied in the sky like a running river! I tried to hold and move this “pink river” until it made a circle surrounding the staff packing the rest of the stage from the manifestation. However, they just pushed the cloth aside from them, continuing their job, as if nothing strange was happening…  

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At the end, I reeled the cloth on my body and turned it into clothes. Afterwards, l lay down along my stuff on the table-cloth again, as if I was buried by the “pink river”.

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

It is a story about a “misplaced woman” who comes from China and currently lives in Belgium, who attempts to find her place as a foreign woman despite all the stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings. Sometimes, she has a drive to disguise herself like a model in a fashion show, to act different roles that she is expected to be… She tries very hard to coexist with the people here, and to join their struggles but she somehow fails again and again… It seems she even can’t understand what they are fighting for… The only thing she could do is to live like a flowing river, dancing, singing, across the world, as it seems to be the most suitable manifestation of her existence and journey of life.

Performance and text by: Tan Tan
Photography: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa, Tan Tan
Video:  Lennart Soberon
Assistance and light: Cathy
Contribution by Tan Tan has been edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić on the “Misplaced Women?” Blog 2018/19

(*) editorial comment

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Tan Tan is an artist and curator who currently lives and works in China and Belgium. Her oeuvre so far includes experimental film/video art, as well as intermedia works that combine performance, music, sound and image. She took part in numerous exhibitions and film festivals internationally. Urban spaces, social intervention, and spiritual healing are the core topics concerned in her work. 

In the international context, she has been often asked about her “Chinese identity” or “female features” in her work, but she doesn’t really want to answer to those questions. She prefers to live freely worldwide and to practice whatever kind of art she wants. However in regard to her current stay in Europe, she has a records of several visa refusals, as she has been suspected for her migratory tendencies.

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