Misplaced Women? banner by Marta Nitecka Barche
Text by Caroline Gausden:
As a part of the Aberdeen Festival of Politics 2016, the Misplaced Women? workshop conducted by Tanja Ostojić took place in Torry, an area of Aberdeen separated from the main port and city centre by the mouth of the river. It’s an area with its own distinctive geography. Connected to Aberdeen City centre by three bridges it is also somehow separate and with a strong relationship to the sea. It is easy to imagine it as a place with its own history and stories to tell. When I went to Torry for the first time I was struck by the smell of fish, the sound of the sea and the industrial spaces that dwarfed me as I rode my bike along the coast. I also noticed many different accents that confirmed Torry is a place that holds a diverse community of people who have found it more affordable to live in than other areas of the city. When I came to visit in March it was to meet with Tanja Ostojić in the local community centre and listen to other women speak on their experiences of migration and travel under the umbrella of the festival of politics, hosted by one of the local residents Renée Slater and co organised by Marta Nitecka Barche.
Our base was social centre of Torry, where we first met. We spoke a little bit about why we were there, sharing rich and personal stories around migration and other feelings connected to the idea of being misplaced. We also shared tea and biscuits. I was interested in questions of hospitality and politics in art. As well as this I had recently produced and supported performance art in Torry and wanted to feel what it was like to be on the other side, to perform. In thinking about hospitality I have spent some time trying to decide how it is possible to negotiate the power structures set up by the host/guest scenario. I had thought about the idea that possibly it is only those who have been ‘misplaced’ and know what it feels like to have lost a home that can offer hospitality. I felt that Tanja’s practice was intimately bound up these questions so I was happy that sharing food together, as well as stories of ourselves, round a table was the start of our journey. Tanja was a guest in Torry but also offered us the kind of hospitality that would make it possible to be brave and to move into the uncertain territory of performance art, a foreign land for many of us in the workshop.
After eating we walked out of the community centre, leaving the quiet streets in the area to descend down the hill to the shops and heart of Torry. We were lucky to have a sunny day and a view of the sea. The first place we choose to perform was the front steps of a public library.
Workshop participants in front of the Social Centre, Torry Aberdeen, UK
How did it feel standing outside the library? Angela unpacked things first from a cluttered, unkempt but well loved bag. She made a little line of things on the wall. It seem as though she was meeting a lot of these things for the first time or at least after a long time apart. There were things folded up in things, she stopped as if finished, then realized there was more to be done. I thought about unpacking. I stood on the edge of myself and the public space and paced back and forward. Other people began to unpack in different ways giving us a glimpse of their private worlds some perfectly neat, whilst other more complex. Someone else started to look for something; it became an accidental performance. I delayed. It felt too difficult to start. People started to look on, the librarian paused in the doorway unsure of what was happening. We started to move on. No harm done.
We made it to the bridge and a bus stop. Tanja took that moment to perform. One guy sat at the bus shelter with a group of friends, he watched as she began unpacking. A bus pulled up adding to the suspense. How long would it wait for her? What had been lost? People exchanged glances, questions were hanging in the air. The man on the bench made a decision, he would wait and see what was happening, wherever he was going he decided to delay. His friends left reluctantly without him. A small connection was made between strangers. Meanwhile the rhythm in Tanja’s performance picked up, the pace seemed to be more frantic, she turned items inside out, more stuff was laid out. Finally, at the bottom things were soup stained, a sticky mess. The performance slowed down, started to feel hopeless. Whatever she had been searching for seemed to slip away. She sat on the bench now looking out, spooning in mouthfuls of cold soup from the leaky container. I walked away to find a spot and grab a moment to also perform. I picked somewhere in the sunshine and without waiting dived into my own bag.
Tanja Ostojic´s performance
What are things? I hadn’t really thought too carefully about them before, these things I carry around. That day having taken the leap and begun to unpack, my things felt like little bridges, stretched between people. These objects we travel with make us feel safe, nourished and anxious in equal measure. Kirsty sat next to me unpacking. I decided to emphasize the vulnerability I felt. I piled things in a haphazard way, my papers started to catch in the wind. Kirsty smiled at my ‘filing system’, which was clearly, a broken system, a fragile, human system, under pressure and imperfect. But a system that nevertheless means something to me. I wanted to share what it meant, I was lucky enough to be with people I could share with. What does it mean to get everything out, to feel a little vulnerable but to support each other all the same? It felt good, like I had had a glimpse into another reality and like I would be a better host for having taken the journey.
Caroline Gausend´s performance
Performance by Ashley McNaughton
With the participation of: Karolina Kubik, Caroline Gausden, Angela Margaret Main, Francesco Sani, Gabriel Tracy, Kirsty Russell, Renée Slater, Marta Nitecka Barche, Ashley McNaughton and many other amassing people.
Photos: Amy Bryzgel, Renée Slater, Tanja Ostojic
For more images and texts about this workshop please visit as well:
This workshop has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the University of Aberdeen and the Aberdeen Trade Union Council.