MisplacedWomen?

Archive for the ‘Airports’ Category

Misplaced in Time

In Airports, Signs, Skopje on August 29, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić: Misplaced Women? Project (ongoing since 2009)

Performed by Ivana Vaseva

On August 28, 2019 Ivana Vaseva was waiting for the Wizz Air flight Nr. W67740 from Berlin Schönefeld, at Skopje International Airport (Меѓународен аеродром Скопје), from 00:45 am until 2:30 am, while performing the Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign. I took this photo of her after collecting my suitcases shortly after 3 am at super crowded Skopje airport. She wrote the following text afterwords:

Misplaced in Time, Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić, at Skopje International Airport, 28.8.2019. Performed by Ivana Vaseva, AKTO. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

There is something quite disturbing in a dialogue, polemics or a unrehearsed choir of wait-ors on airport arrivals when you are the only one holding a sign on a corner of a designated aria with a sentence ‘Misplaced Woman?’ written on it. It seems to be somehow annoying to people on many levels, just like buzzing of one fly after another on a hot summer day while you’ve just dived into a sweet nap. Why is she holding that particular sign? What does she want? Usually wait-ors have the name of the waited one written with a regular pen on a plane piece of paper. Why this one is different? Maybe it is a commercial of some sort? Maybe she is just a show off girl?

There is one child particularly staring at me.

One man starred his eyes out just to see what is written on the sign.

One hint is discovered: There is a guy taking photos of her while she is holding the sign.

Misplaced in Time, Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić, at Skopje International Airport, 28.8.2019. Performed by Ivana Vaseva, AKTO. Photo: Filip Jovanovski

It is strange to me as well.  I’m also not accustomed of doing this, holding a sign on an airport arrival platform. People are staring and reading, puzzled. I try to enter into this situation and to ponder on it. Ah, I just recall a festival I used to work for, a film festival, where someone had an idea that the wait-ors will wait for the guest with a sign that had one of famous film quotes on it: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse”, “There’s no place like home.” or “I’ll be back.”

On another festival the waiting sign was the guests’ face made as a printed paper mask that was worn by the wait-or.

So, if the very waiting on an airport, carrying a sign that says ‘Misplaced Woman?’ was a film, what would this film be about? It could be about an itinerant worker in culture, freelancer as a medieval mercenary as Hito Steyerl compares, jumping from one gig to another or playing several gigs simultaneously… In this precarious tormented body of hers, she doesn’t succeed to explain her situation, although she persistently tries, so she can prove the substandard conditions in which she lives and works. She lives in a corrupted capitalist pool with little chances that the water can be depolluted and clean. She is constantly bitten by sharks, not that they have ethics of any sort, those jealous and untalented swimmers… And in this very moment, she thinks of something. 

I think that this could be the film scenario, but I’m not sure. 

What we seem to have at stake here are two layers of awkwardness that share the same airport arrival platform. 

So, we’ve established the role of the wait-or, that is the one displaced from her original position of festival curator on one side, and the guest, the waited one, that seems to be displaced by plane to a different country on the other. The wait-or is physically misplaced from her position on two levels. She is voluntarily misplaced from the festival that she is co-organising – AKTO Festival for contemporary arts in Bitola, because she is in Skopje right now, doing something that curators usually don’t do. But, on another level, she feels forcefully displaced from the position of a curator in the general context because she wants things to be professionally done, while professionally seems to be misplaced from Macedonia. 

The waited one seems though not to be misplaced any more, thank all gods.  

The reality of this stream of thoughts is that we are currently organising the 14th edition of AKTO that is one of rare festivals for contemporary art in this country with such a long continuity, done with a lot of enthusiasm and dedication, and persistently marginalised. And this is because in this country only state or local institutions are considered able to produce culture, although culture is the last thing that is actually considered important. The crucial thing is that the society under construction still lays on the same grounds: corruption and fake ethics. 

In the spirit of Brechtian aphorism „Grab first, then ethics!“, we’ve opened the topic of large appetites of the corrupted spirits and the massive existential problems of the people. This suffocating environment forces you to take giant steps and to misplace yourself. 

The first step is a symbolic displacement. On an airport, while waiting and while examining oneself, why do you wait. This was triggered and enabled by Tanja Ostojić’s delegated performance “Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign“. Waiting, thinking, reflecting and making plans for further actions. 

Misplaced in Time, Score #2: Holding the Misplaced Women? Sign, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić, at Skopje International Airport, 28.8.2019. Performed by Ivana Vaseva, AKTO. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

So, while I was waiting for Tanja, and among all those wait-ors at the crowded Skopje airport as if it was an exclusive after midnight disco opening party, I thought of the question – Are we misplaced from the position that we should’ve taken as hardworking people?

Maybe the Wizzair flight that was supposed to land at 00:45am, and that turned into 02:25am flight misplaced the time, and it might be a time to somehow try to turn things around?

All of us, wait-ors.

Ivana Vaseva is curator and researcher in the field of contemporary visual arts, viewed from an interdisciplinary perspective. She initiates, stimulates and produces collaborative and engaging programs and researches with an intention to confront places of desire, contest established relationships and reclaim the meaning of public, by producing art and social living. She is program director of “Faculty of things that can’t be learned (FR~U)”, an organisation based in North Macedonia.

Since 2006 FR~U is producing AKTO Festival for contemporary arts in Bitola, that become resilient, strong and contextual platform promoting and producing interdisciplinary critical programs and concepts. It is a festival which tries to open not only topics relevant for the current socio-political and hence artistic reality, but also to stimulate production formats that stir up the status quo. The festival happens each year in August in Bitola and is a parallel to events produced by local municipalities and cultural institutions, with its subverting and  emancipatory mission. In 2016 and 2017, due to burning local issues and needs, AKTO re-branded into POP UP AKTO, a temporary concept of producing the festival in several other cities in Macedonia (Skopje, Tetovo, Shtip and Kochani)

Written by: Ivana Vaseva

Edited and first published by: Tanja Ostojić at the Misplaced Women? blog (August 2019).

Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Filip Jovanovski
Copyright: Tanja Ostojić and AKTO festival

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Please visit as well other contributions and posts from Airports. 

Please visit as well other contributions and posts from Signs.

Misplaced Roots by Katja Vaghi

In Airports, Berlin, Performances, Workshops on February 3, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Misplaced Roots 

Concept and performance: Katja Vaghi

Location: landing stripe, Templehofer Feld, Berlin

Duration: 15 minutes

January 2018

Misplaced Roots is a solo performance that was created in the framework of Tanja Ostojić’s MISPLACED WOMEN? workshop unfolding in the range of public spaces in January 2018 in Berlin. I have found the discussions during Tanja Ostojić’s workshop especially interesting. Despite none of the participants were born and raised in Berlin, those discussions uncovered moving details of the city’s social fabric, from its history on both side of the wall to actual issues. It has surely brought the city closer.

I will start with a short description how this performance came about and add a few words of reflection about it.

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Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

On the second day of the workshop, a group of us (Tanja Ostojić, Rhea Ramjohn, Alice Minervini, Sara Kramer, Ola Kozioł and myself) headed from the institution hosting the workshop, the Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, to our chosen performance site, Berlin Tempelhofer Feld. Berlin Tempelhof airport opened in 1927 and was one of the oldest functioning airports before its closure in 2008. Considered a highly influential place by many people in Berlin, it has now been repurposed into an unusual park, Tempelhofer Feld and recently also housed an emergency camp for refugees. In the surreal landscape offered by the landing stripes, people jog and walk dog, grill and play.

Group Interventions on the Way

Our performance started though with little interventions on the S-Bahn (train) to Tempelhofer Feld. In the first, four of us (Ola Kozioł, Tanja Ostojić, Rhea Ramjohn and myself) decided to ‘reclaim our space’ by sitting with our suitcases between our legs in reaction to that little nagging voice preaching how good socialized women should occupy a small space. This was followed my claiming even more space while searching my bag for my phone. We wanted to know where a particular spot of the airport was and I was looking to phone a friend. So, I deliberately choose to take the most absurd or voluminous things out of my bag, thus pilling books, gloves, a scarf and bright orange mandarins on the top of my suitcase in my hunt for my phone. This partial performance of Tanja’s set score did not impress the person seated next to me who continued reading his book, or the others in the carriage. I might have appeared a little eccentric but being Berlin, I was quite in the norm. Knowing your context is key. Still the situation highlighted another element, how we are always in a liminal space, always potentially on the verge of a performance. Each act is a potential subversive act depending on the place, extent and length of its performance.

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Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Video-still: Sara Kramer

 

Group Intervention on the Tempelhof airport

At Tempelhof airport (with Tanja and Rhea) the three of us with suitcases produced a choreography of rolling suitcases. Three misplaced women, with their suitcases, walking on the landing strip to get on a flight that is no longer there.

 

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Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Video-still: Sara Kramer

Misplaced Roots

I chose to perform Misplaced Roots in the middle of a landing stripe. I drag my suitcase away from the audience, heading nowhere and looking forlorn. This suitcase has accompanied me for seven years going back and forth from were I have been studying and then working and the place of where my emotions were, my family and my partner. I have rolled it for so long that one of the wheels is worn out. I then stop, take my coat off and open the suitcase. I try to squeeze myself in it. I am too big. My legs are out of it, as I clap myself together as a Swiss knife. I open the lid, try to put my legs in the suitcase as well, fail and fall with it backwards. I am now sitting with my back and the lid on the concrete and my legs on the suitcase. The temperature is far below zero. It is very cold. I try to use it as a cover to get some warmth from it. But it is not happening. There is no way that I am going to fit in it.

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Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

I feel restless, a body without a voice. I step out of the suitcase and take a white long skirt. I wear it, and sit back in the suitcase. I take an old broken shirt, turn it inside out and try to fit in one of these plastic bags for the security check commenting as I go: “You always have to squeeze your whole life inside these little bags”. It is funny how one grows attached to objects. Especially, when travelling a lot, one has certain rituals involving particular objects that make one feel at home. A friend of mine had a special cup. I have a suitcase. Many times I have lived out of this suitcase. It was literally my home. I then read aloud a definition of migration taken from wikipedia and the comments on how to approach and survive the procedure at the German Immigration Authorities (Ausländerbehörde Berlin). Finally, I read testimonies of people who had migrated from my region a century ago. I am a voluntary migrant but this does not mean I am less lonely when settling in a new place. I am still misplaced. I am still visited with feelings of loss and nostalgia. Each time one packs a suitcase to move, one brings one’s roots with it, hoping to find nurturing soil for them. I read the definition of ‘Spolia’ or the building stones that are repurposed for new constructions. These ‘homely’ objects, these spolia, are fragments of a previous life helping one grow roots in a new country. Finally, I close my performance as I started. I pack everything in the suitcase, put my coat on and continue walking towards nowhere. 

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Katja Vaghi alternates theoretical reflections in written form to practical musing in the performing space. A dancer, choreographer, somatic practitioner and dance researcher, she holds a PhD in dance philosophy (University of Roehampton) and is an enthusiast improviser and site-specific performer. She is based in Berlin

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Text written by: Katja Vaghi

Edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić, 2018-19 on the Misplaced Women? project Misplaced Women? project blog

HD video-recording: Sara Kramer

Still from video: Sara Kramer

Photography: Tanja Ostojić

Misplaced Women? organised by: Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin Weißensee. 

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Please visit as well other contributions and posts from the same workshops:

Contribution by Mad Kate

Contribution by Rhea Ramjohn

Contribution by Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh

Contribution by Jiachen Xu and Evdoxia Stafylaraki

Contribution by LADY GABY

Contribution by Ola Kozioł

Contribution by Татьяна Bogacheva

Public Presentation of the Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, January 2018

Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?

In Airports, Berlin, Performances, Workshops on June 8, 2018 at 9:01 am

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s Misplaced Women? workshop, January 22–24, 2018, hosted by Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin, the following performance has been developed and performed for the first time:

Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?  By: Rhea Ramjohn. 

By unpacking “colonial commodities” which Rhea uses to express her identity, she is confronting both her own and the public’s understanding of the “post-colonial” existence. She urges you to ask questions such as, What is exotic? What is indigenous? What is the composition of our identities, both national and imagined?

Performance duration: ca. 40 minutes

Location: Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

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“You’re from Boston! But where are your parents from? Originally?”

There’s that word again, Originally. This question is a sharp jab to the carefully-crafted concept of my identity. It is a reminder that I am a Misplaced Woman. As with many migrants from the Caribbean my heritage is varied, complex, and in many instances- undocumented. Growing up in Trinidad to parents who had little written history of our family’s migration (forced and otherwise) from Asia, Africa, and Europe, I was left to deduce for myself, the understanding of my “ethnic” identity. Furthermore, moving to the U.S. and later to Europe makes that identity-establishment more complex. I’ve found that through language and through cuisine, I can come close to physically presenting my identity, which is defined in no small part to misplacement and the Caribbean Diaspora. 

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s Misplaced Women? workshop, I explore this expression by unpacking a suitcase of food and other objects on the runway of the no-longer operating airport, Tempelhof. Once unpacked, the set-up should appear similar to the market vendors of my childhood Trinidad. For the performance, I chose the closed airport because it addresses my memories of travelling, where I first fell in love with the idea of visiting other places. Furthermore, choosing to stage my performance as a Trinidadian market vendor is alluding to the strong influence of global trade on my existence. Colonialism in particular, has not only affected my life, but all of us collectively. The night before the performance, I carefully selected the objects which I wanted to present because each of them serves a very particular way in which I present my identity. 

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

My suitcase was packed with the following objects:

A beach mat, a white tarp, a red Chinese robe, a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, a map of Trinidad, 2 sarongs from the Bahamas one red and one blue, a bag with a whale design, 2 straw placemats, a wok, a wooden spatchala, a stuffed toy lobster, pairs of chopsticks, star-themed napkins, a purple Chinese fan, a bar of Trinidadian chocolate, a bag of Trinidadian coffee, 2 mangoes, 1 cassava, a bag of brown cane sugar, plantains, potatoes, lemons, chilli peppers, rice, ginger, garlic, amchar marsala, madras curry powder, 3 Bahamian seashells, the  Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, Black Berlin, a Trinidadian passport, an American flag postcard, and my writing notebook from 5th class.  

With the presentation of these objects, I am attempting to exert the representation of my fragmentally determined ethnic/racial/national/personal misplacement through the narrative of colonial and “post-colonialism”. Because colonies are exploited for their resources, each of these objects serves as a symbol of that exploitation and subsequent misplacement.  

I challenge the public to recognize the connection these products have to colonialism, slavery, and immigration. How does un-/forced migration contribute to the Diaspora in terms of the re-framing of identity, misplacement of people, culture, and commodities? How are the effects of colonialism still felt/manifested today?  The title question of this performance, Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today? confronts my own search for a connection to an ancestral and cultural heritage which is inextricably linked with misplacement.  

 

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

Some background on a few of the items:

The map of Trinidad: designed in the mid 90s, it was found in a flea market in Germany and outlines the industries and agriculture of Trinidad at that time- two points which focus solely on the country’s resources.

The postcard and star-themed napkins: the postcard is a replication of a 1970s black and white photo of a Black man waving an American flag. This in combination with the star themed napkins is a subtle ironic nod to my American identity, which is fraught with pride yet dismay at the racial and socio-economic injustices of my surrogate homeland.

The bag of brown cane sugar, bar of Trinidadian chocolate, and Trinidadian coffee: indigenous products to the island, these are clear representatives of the many reasons Trinidad and much of the world was colonized and exploited for monetary profit. I attempt here to bring to light two significant products usually labelled as “European” (i.e. coffee as a typically Italian product, and chocolate as a typically Swiss, Belgian, German, Dutch product), and sugar- a globally important commodity, yet whose history is steeped in the horror of slavery and colonialism.

Mangoes, plantains, potatoes, cassava, lemons, madras curry powder, amchar masala, chillies, rice, ginger, and garlic: these products represent the scope of the Diasporan traditions reflected not only in Trinidad, but throughout the Caribbean and the Americans. Asia and Africa in particular play monumental roles in the shaping of Caribbean societies, and are therefore instrumental in my identity as a Caribbean-American person.

2 sarongs from the Bahamas and 3 Bahamian seashells: gifts from a Trinidadian aunt who emigrated there, they are representative of yet another instance of a Caribbean woman emigrating to another place- a trend common in the Caribbean, yet hardly known internationally. The seashells carry the eternal sounds of the sea- a constant reminder of how far removed we are from our origins.

Text written by: Rhea Ramjohn

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Rhea Ramjohn: “Which colonial comfort would you like to consume today?”, Misplaced Women? workshop, Tempelhoferfeld, Berlin, January 2018. Photo: Alice Minervini

Rhea Ramjohn is a Trinidadian-American Creative Writer and Poet based in Berlin.

 

Photo and video documentation by: Tanja Ostojić and Alice Minervini

 

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Please visit as well other contributions and posts from the same workshops:

“Mirror, Mirror – Spread Your Reflection!” Contribution by Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh

Contribution by LADY GABY

Public Presentation of the Misplaced Women? Workshop in Berlin, January 24, at 5 pm

Contribution by Ola Kozioł: „Golden pillow

 

Misplaced Women? Sign at Pula Airport, July 22, 2017.

In Airports, Signs on July 22, 2017 at 10:19 pm

Misplaced Women? Sign held by Miran Čabraja — City Taxi Poreč — on Pula Airport, Istria, July 22, 2017.

 

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Miran who is doing several different jobs including taxi transfers and building houses, has designed, printed and plastificated the Misplaced Women? Sign, that he has been holding gladly for me today. We had very interesting conversation about the economical situation and processes going on in Istria while he drove me to Poreč, for the Artist on Vacation project.

Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Bojana Videkanić holding the “Misplaced Women?” sign on the Toronto Airport and diving into her profoundly touching memories about her initiation into the life of a refugee escaping Sarajevo siege in 1992

In Airports, Borders, Signs, Stories, Toronto on February 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm

On October 12 2016. Bojana Videkanić was holding the “Misplaced Women?” sign on the Pearson International Airport in Toronto and was diving into her profoundly touching memories about her initiation into the life of a refugee escaping Sarajevo siege in 1992 and her and her family life as refuges in the UK, Croatia and Canada. She wrote about it:

Missing Women: Some Thoughts As to Why I Became Missing While Waiting for Tanja Ostojić

By Bojana Videkanić October 2016-February 2017.

Last year I invited Tanja Ostojić to present her work at the 7a*11d International Performance Art Festival in Toronto. As one of the members of the Toronto Performance Art Collective, I have been wanting to invite Tanja to come to our festival for some time. She generously accepted and came in October 2016. In our conversations and planning prior to her arrival, Tanja asked me to help her by doing a specific action when she landed in Toronto. She asked me to create a sign and hold it while waiting for her at the Pearson International Airport. She told me that the sign should read: “Misplaced Women” which is also the title of Tanja’s piece that she was going to perform on October 16 at a tram stop downtown Toronto at the corner of McCaul and Dundas streets. Tanja gave me a choice to, if I wanted to, put a question mark at the end of the statement. I was happy to do the action and I made the sign, deciding to put a question mark at the end. My choice to do so was guided by the fact that Pearson is a large and busy place and I suspected that the sign will be noticed if I keep it ambiguous. I, however, was not considering the impact Tanja’s work would have on me.

The day came and I arrived 30 or so minutes earlier in order to keep the action a bit longer, to give it some time to play out. While standing there at the international arrivals gate, I had some time to think about the action I was performing (standing in the middle of the great airport hall with an ambiguous sign in my hands) and what its ramifications might be. There were a couple of important thoughts I had that came about as a result. First, throughout my action I realized that I was initiating Tanja’s performance, as it became obvious that my interactions with the accidental audiences were a catalyst for a discussion around borders, policing of bodies, and (in)visible violence of that. In short, I realized that Tanja’s performance has begun as people gawked at me. Secondly, I realized the echoes of Tanja’s work in our ‘local’ Canadian context with the missing and murdered indigenous women, and the impact it had in the light of Syrian crisis and the inability of the world actors to see the refugees as human beings. What I did not expect was my own physical reaction to the sign and the moment as I became missing in it.

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On October 12 2016, Bojana Videkanić holding the “Misplaced Women?” sign on the Pearson International Airport in Toronto and diving into her profoundly touching memories about her initiation into the life of a refugee escaping Sarajevo siege in 1992 and her and her family life as refuges in the UK, Croatia and Canada. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

It became obvious at that moment that the sign “Missing Women” was not about some other missing women (although of course it is about many thousands if not millions of them) but that it was also about my own experiences of borders and violence. It brought me back some 20+ years back to 1992, and my 15-year-old self, a confused, frightened child who, in a matter of few weeks between April 6 and April 20 1992, became a refugee. At the time I did not know what that meant, but I learned quickly. When my hometown of Sarajevo came under siege and the first grenades fell, my desperate, naïve parents wanted to save me, to protect me, so they found a way to put me on one of the last planes leaving the city to go to Belgrade and then on to London, England. I will never forget the scene of desperation at the Sarajevo Airport as hundreds and hundreds of people gathered to try to get their small children, parents and other family onto Kikash military plains. Pleading with important-looking military officers, with their long lists of people’s names, to let them through––crying, begging, consoling, desperate. Through some miracle my parents managed to get me on one of those lists and on one of the planes. They gave me a few of our family photos (so that I wound not forget them and where I come from), my mom lovingly packed my sinus medication and some clothes, and told me that I will be back at the end of the summer when the war will be over, and with my English much improved. And so I went, with my grey, Yugoslav child passport (which in fact was no longer valid as we were living through the breakup of the country), 500 deutsche marks, my photos, and a book. As Kikash plane lifted off (in fact this was my very first time being on the plane) I sat on the floor of its enormous belly with a couple of hundred other people not really knowing where I was going and what will happen to me when I get there. I was all alone, a child who never travelled without her parents, going to some unknown future.

Three days later I was on a plane ride to London, England with another boy, a son of my parents’ friends. The two of us were going to his aunt who accepted to take me in for the short period until I was to return home to Sarajevo. As the airplane approached Heathrow airport I became very anxious and scared. We landed and I was immediately detained by the UK customs and immigration. I was held in an interrogation room for six hours. I had to take all my clothes out of my bag, they took my family photos and asked me about each person in the photo and where they were, they asked me about my sinus medication, about how much clothes I had, and why I was travelling, do I know what is happening to my country? They even asked me about Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the one book that I managed to take out of my parents’ library as I was leaving (the book I cannot bring myself to read again). It is hard to describe that feeling of being helpless, of being at the mercy of people in uniform, and especially being that way as a child. Like a caged animal my heart pounded, I was shaking, and I cried. I cried as all those things that the immigration officers looked through were really the last things that I could say were mine, these were the last remnants of my childhood, of my family life, and of my country, even those darn sinus pills… My entire life on display, my entire life in one suitcase, now an object of conversation for immigration officers, and evidence of my status.

Finally, I was let through, they decided that my friend’s aunt who waited for us was credible. This was my initiation into the life of a refugee. From that moment on, I moved with my suitcase from family to family, twice in London (during the 2 month stay there), and some ten times later on when I lived as a refugee in Croatia. At one point while still in London, I was supposed to be moved for the third time with an unknown woman, but when that did not work out the people with whom I was staying decided that I should be given over to the Child Services (as having a 15-year old in the house was too much for them). I couch-surfed most of the time, slept in peoples’ baby rooms next to their kids’ cribs, in their master bedrooms on the floor, in spare rooms, living rooms, all kinds of rooms. I learned to hold my pee in so that I would not have to be in the bathroom when owners of the house were in the house. I learned to take fast showers, I learned to eat when no one was looking (usually late at night). I learned how to walk without making a sound, how to use a hand towel, soap, shampoo, or kitchen utensils so that they would look like no one has used them. I learned to be sparing with creams, food, cookies so that it would not look like someone has eaten them. I learned to be invisible, how not to be noticed by police, by men, by security. I learned how to pack my bag quickly so that I can move out fast. I learned that refugees are not welcomed, that we are perceived as a burden, not just to the state and all its mechanisms, but often to extended families, friends, and even do-gooders who think that they can take in refugees into their home but cannot deal with someone actually living with them, taking their space.

I, however, also met some amazing people on the way, selfless, caring people like my mom’s friend who took me and my family in with her son for four months. Or like a doctor from the Doctors Without Borders who I met on the street and in our conversation I told him that my parents are doctors in Sarajevo and that I was not sure if they are dead or alive as all the phone lines were down and I did not speak to them in two months. He told me that he will find my parents as he was going back to Sarajevo and deliver my letter. And he did! (that was how my parents found out I was ok and alive).

Finally, I also learned that my parents were broken by the war, the strong, independent people I knew before April 1992 were now broken physically, mentally, and professionally. When both my parents came out of the besieged Sarajevo (my mom at the end of 1992, and my dad at the end of 1994) and when we lived as refugees in Croatia awaiting papers to immigrate to Canada or Australia, I saw my parents waiting in line for food donations, for refugee status, clothes, aid, they were lost and defeated, depressed. My dad has severe PTSD which was never dealt with. The defeat only continued when we came to Canada, when my parents had difficulty learning English, not being able to find a job, being too old to go to school (early-to mid 50s) but too young to retire, struggling; my father going to a local Food Bank getting food, working on construction site as a construction worker, my mom working with developmentally disabled adults and being attacked and bitten. Yes, standing there at the arrivals gate at Pearson Airport became an embodied performance of myself missing and my parents missing. I was that 15-year old kid again, trying to find myself.

Finally, another important thought I had at that moment of waiting for Tanja, as I had some confused looks from passersby, was that people could recognize the signs, they could recognize the ambiguity of what Tanja was stating. Several people stopped and asked what the sign was about. One man came around as asked where are these misplaced women? He was confused… I replied that it was a part of Tanja Ostojić’s art work relating it to refugees and migrant women, but also used the opportunity to address a more pressing Canadian context of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and the current inquiry into this tragedy (https://www.nwac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/

Fact_Sheet_Missing_and_Murdered_Aboriginal_Women_and_Girls.pdf). A female security guard came to me asking about the sign, she approached and said, ”You know you will get a lot of people asking about the sign,” “they will think you might have some answers for them…” Then she said, “you know, I am misplaced too…” These interactions with the security, passersby, people who wait for family and friends, and being at the airport, opened up a whole other conversation about invisibility of violence, of invisibility and visibility of women who are marginalized, who are placed at the mercy of governmental mechanisms, police, immigration, child welfare, welfare and unemployment services, ministry of Indigenous affairs, lawyers, immigration courts. It became clear then that this performance was placing an ethical and moral obligation on the passersby as it directly asked them to confront the question/statement on the sign I made for Tanja.

I write this as the Syrian refugees are fleeing their country just like I did 20+ years ago. I write this as Trump has barred people from entering US, I write this as frozen refugee claimants are crossing the US/Canada border at -40˚C, I write this as an official Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is just taking place 40+ years in, I write this as hundreds of unaccompanied minor children are prevented from entering UK (as the government stopped its program to help them,) I write this as women and children are still going missing––no questions asked… Tanja Ostojic’s performance which asks that question is therefore more important then ever. Standing in the crowd with a sign “Missing Women?” at this moment becomes an ethical and moral confrontation, one that troubles the age of invisibility. And at a time of alternative truths, the truth of those who are marginalized truth is the one that matters, and only one that cannot be erased in the swamp we call the Internet.

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Bojana Videkanić is an artist, art historian and curator. Originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who came to Canada as a refugee. Videkanić now lives in Canada where she teaches at the University of Waterloo and is a member of the curatorial board of the 7a*11d International Performance Art Festival.  7a*11d festival, now in its 20th year, is one of the oldest and largest performance art festivals in Canada. The 7a*11d collective gathers over 20 international and national artists for each of its biannual festivals that takes place in the fall in Toronto: http://7a-11d.ca/  #7a11d2016

Please see as well:

https://misplacedwomen.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/misplaced-women-performed-by-tanja-ostojic-dedicated-to-the-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-in-canada-sunday-october-16-in-front-of-the-art-gallery-of-ontario-7a11d-2016-toronto-can/

https://misplacedwomen.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/misplaced-women-sign-on-pearson-international-airport-in-toronto/

Elena Marchevska holding the “Misplaced Women?” Sign at Heathrow Airport London, December 12, 2016.

In Airports, London, Signs, Stories on February 11, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Hospitality in times of displacement

It is a cold, grey December morning and I am on my way to pick up Tanja Ostojić from Heathrow airport. I am traveling on the Piccadilly line, half empty carriage, thinking about London and me. It wasn’t love at first sight, that is for sure. The first time I visited London was in 2005, just one week before 7/7, to do a performance as part of the exhibition Insomnia, an exhibition about experience of refugees and displaced individuals. It was a hot July week, the streets were filthy. Everywhere was incredibly busy and I felt that the city was a bit too much for me… I left relieved to be off to tour a show in rural France for three months and didn’t really think about coming back.

However, here I am, 12 years later, in London, again looking at displacement, at stories of migration and misplacement. This is a very critical and important moment for the UK, Europe and the world. Six months have passed since the Brexit vote, Trump has been elected as president of the USA and the world is a very hostile, inhospitable place for people on the move. Heathrow is flashy, clean, perfect, a haven for shoppers and travellers. I feel profoundly misplaced, leaning on the metal rail between taxi drivers and company chauffeurs, holding a handmade sign saying ‘Misplaced Women?’. Not a personal name on my sign, not a company logo, just a question. Do I wait for someone to come, or do I wait for my situation to be resolved?

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Elena Marchevska holding the “Misplaced Women?” sign at Heathrow Airport London, December 12, 2016. Photo: Tanja Ostojc

When I was developing the concept for my residency with Live Art Development Agency, my thoughts were constantly with the people in flux, those who were crossing or waiting at borders for days, sometimes months. Vivid memories of my childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia emerged. I remembered my school friends who were refugees from Sarajevo; my work in refugee camps during the Kosovo crisis; the lines for bread and milk; cars left without petrol in the middle of the road. More than 20 years has passed, but my body clearly remembers the fear, and at the same time the braveness, the openness to share, to give, to be there for one another. Many people opened their homes to refugees and family displaced due to war, despite being impoverished and affected by the war themselves.

It is important to discuss displacement along hospitality. Derrida introduces hospitality as a radical concept that offers alternative ways to treat others. His central argument is based on the ‘aporia of hospitality’, which, according to Derrida, has two main elements: one of owning and being empowered by that ownership, and another of giving ownership away and being vulnerable. I thought that it would be an important part of my research and creative journey to host an artist, someone with a similar history to myself, and to open a creative dialogue about hospitality and displacement. Tanja Ostojic’s project ‘Misplaced Women?’ was a natural choice.

The project works with the Derrida’s aporia. Tanja hosts a safe space that allows her workshop participants to open up and share their experiences. It also requires that they present their ideas immediately, by performing them in a public space. This brings us back to Derrida’s discussion of the etymology of the term ‘hospitality’, which is related to hostility, since the root hospes is allied to the root hostis, which interestingly means both ‘stranger’ and ‘enemy’. Thus, hospitality, as in hostilis (stranger/enemy) + potes (having power), originally meant the power that the host has over the stranger/enemy. And indeed we see the hospitality of Western European societies being defined by imposing power over the ‘strangers’, defining them by impossible standards, borders are re-erected, walls are rebuild, communities are ostracised.

According to Irina Arishtarkova, hospitality is a radical relation, especially when compared with tolerance: it provides a framework to account for the treatment of others with limitless attention and expectation, and it entails an active gesture of welcoming, greeting, sheltering, and in many cases, nourishing. Tanja Ostojić operates within this framework, opening a hospitable space during her performance workshops.  Participants are welcomed and guided, acknowledged and their ideas are nourished. Anecdotes are shared, objects are transformed, pictures are circulated. During the two days of the workshop, I felt that we tapped into each other’s experiences of displacement and loss. Hospitality became performative, it was about slow decision making, about the labour of hosting others, and the handling of unexpected outcomes. There was a willingness to contain and to produce space for the Other out of one’s own flesh and blood, we all walked together by the canal, performers and audience at the same time. The days melted into one long discussion about what displacement means today. For me, the small acts of hope and care that each participant made created a ripple strong enough to go beyond the current climate of hostility.

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Bibliography:

ARISTARKHOVA, I. (2012). Hospitality of the matrix: philosophy, biomedicine, and culture. New York, Columbia University Press.

DERRIDA, J., & DUFOURMANTELLE, A. (2000). Of hospitality. Stanford, Calif, Stanford University Press.

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Elana Marchevska is London Based Artist and educator of Macedonian origin.

http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/opportunities/open-call-for-participants-for-misplaced-women-workshop

http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/whats-on/misplaced-women/

Misplaced Women? Sign at Vilnius International Airport, Lithuania, November 4, 2016.

In Airports, Signs, Vilnius on February 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I landed to the International Airport, Lithuania, from Graz, with a connecting flight in Vienna, for the Unthinkable Nomos conference http://unthinkable.site  that took place at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius from November 5 to 6, 2016. I was welcomed with a beautiful Misplaced Women? banner produced by Monika Janulevičiūtė, young Lithuanian designer herself. For the Misplaced Women? project blog she wrote the following:

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Monika Janulevičiūtė holding the “Misplaced Women?” Sign at Vilnius International Airport, Lithuania, November 4, 2016. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

12:52 Violently digging down into my bag. It has dark lining and no compartments. Rarely ever easy find things there; everything fits, though. Remembering the order or the sides of putting the thing in sometimes help — I finally reach for the zip lock bag with the folded flag. I assume it should be time. A short glimpse at the phone screen. I nod to my friend P. and I jump out of his car, parked in front of the exit of the Arrival Hall.

12:53 The Arrival Hall felt hollow, and November winds got into it quickly making no difference from outside. One couldn’t say if people already left the flight BT5132 or they just waited for baggage. An older man on the left, a younger one nervously rushes through, some calls and the echo of announcements. I spread the piece of fabric of a trench coat before me, rustling, soft to the touch, almost sticky.

A nude flag in the middle of the cube-like hall with its gypsum panelled ceiling separated by wire mesh, trapping pigeons and one helium balloon in mid-air. Unfolding it felt like making a bed or preparing to camp against the grey stone making a solid fundament for the white Corinthian columns and moulded balconies. I think I never stood behind a banner. T-shirts with statements don’t count.

12:55 I’m on time and at the right place but while holding a flag with big Misplaced Women? and become hesitant to state such clear comment on my position. I feel like a translation, or a sign behind one unwillingly shows their skills and habits of holding a life together, covered by rigid canvases, few zippers or belts here and there. The alternative ways of wrapping the unwanted gift of the outrage. Here the temperature drops by one degree Celsius for each memory carried in. The supervision uncloaks her machinery of vigilance. A barren and gated life, flash floods, landslides, fluctuations of the foreign currency exchange values. It hatches whole new sets of catastrophes, not by just a mere proposal of such actualities, but they are cases formulated and born in the accounts with detailed financial expenditures. One can easily measure the ripeness by the amount of industrial rubber or splatter on jet-fuel engines. It will taste like being kicked in the stomach.

Misplaced Women? Sign at Graz Airport, Styria Austria, November 2 2016.

In Airports, Graz, Signs on February 11, 2017 at 2:50 pm

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Edith Risse holding the “Misplaced Women?” Sign at Graz Airport, Styria Austria, November 2, 2016. Photo: Jogi Hofmüller

I landed to Graz around 2.20pm on November 2 2016 with direct Airberlin flight from Berlin Tegel in order to take part in the symposium: MENSCHENRECHTE wörtlich nehmen / HUMAN RIGHTS literally today, that was taking place from November 3 to 4, 2016 at Volksgartenpavillon, Graz: http://mrwn.at

The kind welcoming comity consisted of two of the organisers of the conference including Edith Risse and Jogi Hofmüller. As I kindly asked her, Edith Risse was holding the sign. And so we immediately smiled to each other as the result of recognition.

Jogi Hofmüller noted down for me his observations as well:

As a bystander to the action I can say that to my great surprise the majority of the people passing by seemed not to notice Edith standing there and holding the sign saying “Misplaced Women?”. But then again, Graz airport is not a very crowded place, so over all I guess there were not more than 20 people in the airport while we were standing there. 

Once people arriving with you on the plane started to pass through customs the situation changed slightly. The newly arrived ones of course were looking around, in search of taxis, people that came to pick them up or just to orient themselves. Still, I cannot recall anything special regarding reactions to the sign. I just remember seeing you pass this gate and once you saw the sign your face burst into a big smile 🙂

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Edith Risse holding the Misplaced Women? Sign at Graz Airport, Styria Austria, November 2 2016. Photo: Tanja Ostojic

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Edith Risse is a free lance curator and cultural producer based in Graz. Since 2013 she is a head of the Arts & Culture working group of the parliament of land Styria.

Jogi Hofmüller is media artist based in Graz. He is co-founder of Radio Helsinki and mur.at. Member of 42. Running Plagiat and institut hofos together with Reni Hofmüller.

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Edith Risse and Jogi Hofmüller, Misplaced Women? Sign at Graz Airport. Photo: Tanja Ostojic

Misplaced Women? sign on Pearson International Airport in Toronto

In Airports, Toronto on October 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm

On October 12, 2016. Bojana Videkanić was holding the “Misplaced Women?” sign on the Pearson International Airport in Toronto. She wrote about it:

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Photo: Tanja Ostojic

 

Tanja Ostojić has asked me to create a sign and hold it while waiting for her at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The sign read: “Misplaced Women?” which is also the title of Tanja’s piece that she will perform on Sunday October 16 at 2pm at tram stop downtown Toronto (corner of McCaul and Dunda streets) in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario, as part of the 7a*11d Festival in Toronto.

While standing there at the arrivals ramp at the airport, I quickly realized that in fact Tanja’s performance has already begun as people stared at the sign I was holding up. I had some confused looks from passersby. Several people stopped and asked what the sign was about. One man came around as asked where are these misplaced women? He was confused? I replied that it was a part of Tanja Ostojić’s art work relating it to refugees and migrant women.

A female security guard came to me asking about the sign, she approached and said:

— ”You know you will get a lot of people asking about the sign. They will think you might have some answers for them…” Then she said “you know, I am misplaced too”.

I explained what the project was about and she was quite enthusiastic about what it was, and said she will look up Tanja’s work.

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Further Misplaced Women? Toronto Program:

Tanja Ostojić’s artist talk as part of the panel on Migration, with Selma Selman, moderated by Bojana Videkanić, Saturday, October 15 at 12:30h at OCAD U RM 284, Toronto Canada.

Tanja Ostojić, “Misplaced Women?” performance, Sunday October16 at 2 pm at tram stop downtown Toronto in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Canada.

Tanja Ostojić´s artist talk, Monday, Oct 17, at 6:30pm, University of Buffalo, 202 Center for the Arts, Amherst, NY 14260-6000, United States,

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Photo: Bojana Videkanic

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Bojana Videkanić is an artist, art historian and curator. Originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who came to Canada as a refugee. Videkanić now lives in Canada where she teaches at the University of Waterloo and is a member of the curatorial board of the 7a*11d International Performance Art Festival.  7a*11d festival, now in its 20th year, is one of the oldest and largest performance art festivals in Canada. The 7a*11d collective gathers over 20 international and national artists for each of its biannual festivals that takes place in the fall in Toronto: http://7a-11d.ca/

#7a11d2016

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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