MisplacedWomen?

Misplaced Man? performance in Aberdeen Airport – Contribution by Amy Bryzgel

In Aberdeen, Airports, Border, Performances, Signs on December 8, 2015 at 8:33 am

One question I always had in my mind with regard to Misplaced Women? was: what about Misplaced Men? Of course, I am aware that Tanja’s work focuses on women because they are perhaps the most vulnerable in situations related to migrations, most notably with regard to trafficking, humiliation, and separation from families. And those who know Tanja’s work also know that she does not deal exclusively with women. Her film, Sans Papiers (2004, together with David Rych), tells the stories of many men being held in detention centres in Germany. So, when the opportunity arose, I decided to stage a Misplaced Man? performance in Aberdeen.

 

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Misplaced Man? sign. Aberdeen Airport. Sign and photograph by Amy Bryzgel.

In the summer of 2015 I started organizing a conference that would involve both research talks and performances. I wanted to have a performance that would take place in the context of the presentation of papers, one that would disrupt the rhythm of the lectures. I immediately thought of Branko Milisković’s work, specifically his performance The Speech, which is part one of a two-part performance. Branko’s speech usually lasts around 4 hours, but given the time and space of the conference, and that this would be just one presentation of many, I asked him to do just 45 minutes of it. I wrote to invite him, and he agreed.

 

I knew, when I invited Branko, that as a Serbian passport holder, he would need a visa to the UK. As a US citizen (who has now naturalized in the UK), I knew all too well the complicated procedures for obtaining visas. And over the summer of 2015, a story broke about a group of performance artists from Georgia who were all denied visas to travel to the UK to participate in a performance art festival. Of course, I didn’t know the reasons behind that decision, but it was enough to give me pause about inviting Branko. But, I decided that I didn’t want to make an artistic decision based on nationality or bureaucratic procedures. That said, in inviting Branko, I was also aware that I was putting him in a situation that would be very trying for him—because although I could provide some help and support for his visa application, the burden was entirely on him to collect and submit the papers, to surrender his passport, and to wait for the decision as to whether his application deemed him worthy to enter and perform in the UK.

 

From the time that I invited Branko, on June 10, 2015, until the day that he received his visa on September 9, 2015, around one hundred emails were exchanged, regarding Branko’s visa. No art was discussed during this time. There was no discussion about the content of his speech, the logistics of his performance, how it would fit into the programme—nothing. It was not simply that we put off planning the performance until it was confirmed that he could come to the UK, but that there was simply no mental space or energy for either of us to do so. As the process went on, I felt worse and worse about putting Branko in that situation, as it was clearly very stressful for him, but wondered what choice I had: either I didn’t invite an artist that I thought was very talented and would make a valuable contribution to the conference simply based on the passport he held, or, I would undertake this task, knowing that it would put the artist under pressure.

 

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Branko Miliskovic, Misplaced Man? performance, Aberdeen Airport, UK, October 29, 2015.

In the end, we were successful, and from my view while I was glad we both took the risk, of course the process could, and should, have been easier and less stressful. But, because we are in the arts, we decided to use our power of expression to bring these issues into the public sphere in a different way. I proposed that Branko do a version of Misplaced Women? as a Misplaced Man? He is pictured here at Aberdeen Airport, just after having been cleared entry into the UK. Interestingly, he is standing in front of a picture of Dunnottar Castle, where I had taken Tanja when she was in Aberdeen in April 2015. Above him, a sign reads “currency exchange.” In fact, it was art that was Branko’s currency—his cultural capital is what enabled him to receive a visa to the UK and do his first performance there. I am glad to report that he is not a Misplaced Man.

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  1. Dear Amy, I wish to thank to you and to Branko Milišković for this really valuable contribution and for speaking publicly about this very important administrative issue, freedom of movement and the right to travel for cultural workers that is indeed important for the intercultural exchange. I am as well pleased that we keep tradition of Aberdeen Airport performances. I would like to mention in this context as well that Ilija šoškić, an important Montenegrin Arte povera performance artist of older generation who was as well invited to the same festival as Branko could´t travel to Scotland at all because he did not had a visa..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Tanja, thank you very much for your kind words, and yes, thank you for mentioning the fact that dear Ilija was not able to travel to the UK for the TIPA performance art festival! I was very disappointed not to be able to meet him, and Aberdeen was poorer for not being able to witness one of his live performances!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Branko Miliskovic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely personal review written by Amy Bryzgel for Tanja Ostojic’s ongoing project entitled ”Misplaced Women” drawing attention to our mutual, 3 months long saga, to fulfil all varieties of (im)possible administrative requirements to obtain UK visa. To be frank, I don´t really recall my summer 2015. The major problem, while going through UK entry clearance process is a lack of clear informations: ”You may submit…” ” It might take…” etc. and one never know what will happen next. I remember when I just finished my online application and the server said: ”You have 3 hours to pay visa fee, otherwise the entire application will be disqualified !” It was like a computer game, you never know what’s waiting for you on another level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Branko, hope to be able to reed soon more of your insider visa saga. You are welcome to publish it as Branko´s story in the section Stories of this blog. I´m sure people would appreciate to reed it.

      Liked by 1 person

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