MisplacedWomen?

Archive for the ‘Aix-en-Provence’ Category

Sigrid Pawelke´s Statement

In Aix-en-Provence, Shopping Center, Stories, Workshops on September 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Sigrid Pawelke´s statement regarding her powerful performance contribution to the Misplaced Women? (performance workshop conducted by Tanja Ostojić) in front of the Sephora beauty shop, shopping district of the City of Aix-en-Provence, December 16, 2016.

The context:

In a city like Aix-en Provence, one of the most culturally and economically rich in France where its native sons Cezanne and Victor Hugo help to guarantee an extremely profitable tourism industry to this day, the city politics reinforce this anachronism of the 19th century as contemporary combined with the “culture of appearance”.

The expansion of the old city in the last several years provided even more space for the monoculture of appearance, with the opening of one multinational clothing shop after another – a paradise of consumerism.

In September 2016 at the height of the refugee crises in Europe, the right wing mayor declared that the city of Aix had already welcomed enough refugees and would not take any more.

But what refugees does this mayor mean? The ones who voted for her like the “pieds-noirs”, the French-Algerians, almost a million of whom came to the region after the French-Algerian war in the early 1960’s? Or the Italians, Spaniards, Corsicans and Polish who arrived throughout the 20th century, and let’s not forget the “Gypsies”,  the Roma people.

Due to this context I launched a symposium “migrations – strategies of creation” at the School of Visual Arts in Aix and invited Tanja Ostojić to come speak and hold a performance workshop.

In the frame of her “Misplaced Women?” performance workshop I chose to do my performance right in front of the Sephora beauty shop, which stands for the monoculture of stereotyped female consumers and the high pollutive nature of cosmetics waste worldwide.

This “interspace” between the shop and the public space out on the street is very interesting – where does the private-public space of the shop end and where does the public space of the pedestrian alley begin? French law provides three principles for the use of public space: “Liberté, égalité, gratuité” (Liberty, equality, freedom-as in ‘take this [item] for free’)

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There are laws governing these spaces and the interpretation of the laws by the person who is paid to watch and ensure safety, i.e. the modern day private security guard.

So I started to install myself right in this in-between space to challenge the security guard as well as the passersby and the customers of the beauty shop.

I arrived with a backpack filled with plastic bags and a few other belongings, wearing rather casual, well-worn street clothes.

The minute I started, I put on my “invisible” performance protection wall around me in order to pursue the task of “putting everything inside out”.

Then I began to empty all my bags: there were maybe five or six creating a scene of the so called “bag lady” and people were starting to wonder what I was doing or searching for, including the security guard who appeared hesitant to come over or ask himself whether or not what I was doing was legal, being so close to the shop? Maybe because I am a woman he held himself back so as not to interfere too much in my business in the beginning.

Next I pulled off everything I was holding inside my clothes, out of my jacket and pans pockets. In the end I took off my shoes. So I stood there in the middle of December without shoes or jacket. That was the point when the security guard came up to ask me:

“What are you doing?”

“I am just searching for something,” I answered.

“Hurry up because people are already watching. And move further away from the shop!”

The rest of the people, passersby and customers partially tried to ignore me, since that is the usual behaviour of people who do not want to get involved, neither mentally nor physically.

Under the staring eyes of the security guard I just kept slowly continuing my performance, showing no sign of inhibition due to the treatment of the security guard until everything was packed up again and then I walked away.

 

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The most striking part for me was the feeling of being an object of disturbance to someone, while at the same time being almost totally invisible to the rest, as if I didn’t exist.

However, I am a white European so visually I did not stick out of the crowd and my outfit was still “bearable” in regards to standard conventions.

So there I was, feeling what I call a double burden as a female of otherness, but yet being legal as a European in France. It was only due to my appearance that I was safe as I have been so many other times in my life at border crossings or immigration desks. Whereas both sides of my family were refugees after fleeing the Soviet army when Stalin reshaped Europe at the end of World War II. Thanks to the women in my family many of my kin survived and resettled. Women are the first victims in those situations, but on the other hand once they manage to survive they have an incredible endurance and capacity to adapt.

But to come back to 2016 in order to understand a glimpse of the female migration situation you must experience at least for a moment physically and psychologically their condition. That’s where the profound strength lies in Tanja Ostojić’s performance proposals.

And now just imagine being illegal with signs of apparent “otherness” as a female in front of a private security guard in the same context….

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Sigrid Pawelke, is professor of art history at the School of Visual Arts at Aix-en-Provence, France, researcher and performer.

Photos: Tanja Ostojić

FNAC, Aix-en-Provence, France, December 16, 2015

In Aix-en-Provence, Performances, Shopping Center, Stories, Workshops on February 23, 2016 at 9:33 pm

“Misplaced Man?” Performed by Anastasio  William at FNAC, in the shopping district of  Aix-en-Provence, France on December 16, 2015, in the frame of “Missplaced Women?” workshop conducted by Tanja Ostojic, on performance art, migration, public space and surveillance, with participation of students and teachers of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Aix-en-Provence, France.

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Anastasio  William (student, École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts d´Aix):

“The performance experience I had, in the frame of Tanja Ostojic´s workshop at the art school and in public spaces of Aix-en-Provence, was very exciting and fulfilling. However, it’s more complicated than it seems, to unpack all of your stuff in front of a crowd of unknown people…

It reminded me of the interactions I already had before with airport security agents. Waiting for their judgment…, telling you what’s good or bad…, staring at you with cold serious eyes… Anxious, you don’t know what will happen to you next, until they give you the order to “move along”, “wait on the side”, “come with them”, etc. I have encountered many of those kind of situations in my life due to my dual citizenship, and trust me, I regret I was joking around with border control sometimes.., they are so serious sometimes that one wonders if they are even human…

I decided to perform “Misplaced Man?” at the FNAC in shopping aria in the city center of Aix-en-Provence. It is a private chain shop for culture&technology, and I decided for it because I remember they have security agents, and that was actually good, as I wanted to confront myself to the authority. But it’s also a place, frequented by many people, from different backgrounds, and I thought that my performance in the public space would have no meaning if I wasn’t confronting the criticism of the mass.

I was the first from our workshop group to perform that day. Stress and adrenaline came to me gradually. At some point I just turned off the switch of reason. That same reason, telling one to behave normally, that people will judge YOU, they will think that your are weird..; that you might get in trouble even though you are not hurting anyone, that same reason, that prevents one from doing anything that goes against the norms.

So, after I stopped overthinking, I rushed on instinct and adrenaline alone, to the place I had chosen. In front of the escalators at the entrance of the shop, I dropped my bag down and started to unpack with all my might, as if everything surrounding me stopped to exist. I´ve put all my fury, passion in that act of unpacking, until a security agent came towards me and sort of brought me back to reality.

”What are you doing?!” he asked. Under the adrenaline rush, one thinks quickly, trying to come up with an answer that will satisfy the authority figure in front of you. I had kept my sun glasses on, like a mask separating me from my normal self and responsibility. I looked towards him, and after a bit of hesitation, I replied:

-“Eeeh, I’m looking for my credit card I think I´ve lost it”.

He than seemed relieved, to have a logical explanation to the absurdity happening in front of him.

-“You can’t stay here sir” he says.

-“I’ll be done soon”.- was my answer.

He calls for assistance on his walkie talkie to help him deal with the problem that I incarnated.

The second security guy comes quickly and he pressures me to get on the side or to leave. Feeling the tension growing and having nothing more to unpack or take out of my pockets, I can’t temporaries any longer. So I throw everything in my bag very quickly and exit the scene, thinking it was the right time to end it, before there could be any complications.

After leaving, in company of the group, with my performance workshop crowed that has been taking pictures of me, FNAC security guys probably realised that they were tricked by my lame excuse.

It took me a while before the super high adrenaline dropped down and got balanced again. Only then I got my normal senses back.”

Photos: Tanja Ostojić
Video: Anaïs Clercx

Sous-préfecture d’Aix-en-Provence / Police headquarters, December 16, 2015

In Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Performances, Stories, Workshops on December 23, 2015 at 7:33 pm

“Missplaced Women?” Performed by Anaïs Clercx at Préfecture d’Aix-en-Provence / Police headquarters, city of  Aix-en-Provence, France on December 16, 2015, in the frame of “Missplaced Women?” workshop conducted by Tanja Ostojic, on performance art, migration, public space and surveillance, with participation of students and teachers of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Aix-en-Provence, France.

Anaïs Clercx (student, École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts d´Aix):

Finally, I have chosen to write in English, without corrections, so, I apologise for mistakes and other clumsiness… but I think the language, with his failing and inaccurate words, is big part of the migration’s stories.

As first, thank you very much, for your presence, your presentation, your work, and for the really interesting workshop.

This performance was not my first but its been the first time that I perform for someone else. And it’s my first performance in the public space, and it’s really different to space with framework, substructure, selected public… I think that misplacedwoman is a performative performance, because it’s again reverse that we have inside – outside, to do public performance. I don’t know if it’s clear, just, it’s like to undress, twice.

I choose the préfecture because for me it’s one of the borders for the migrants. It is here that the people can have official papers. But it’s a place for waiting, procedures. A lot of people went with trust, and realised that it’s not easy, sometimes it’s so complicated that the people drop off. Other times, it is a place of an ultimate and definitive “no”. I think that this place represents hope and despair, success and failure of the end of migration.

 

A man who was drinking beer in front of the closed préfecture happened to be an integral part of my performance. When I started to open my bag and to put down my things, the man believed that I was selling my things. He told me that in Marseille, some people used to sell — like a flea market… I already saw that. It was next to “porte d’Aix”, a lot of migrants come to sell something, I think, that was recovered from trash. But now, neighborhood restoration work began, and the flea market is forbidden. In fact, Marseille is changing, and the story of migration, strong in this city, is disappearing, erased, step by step.

It was an interesting exchange.

My own story of migration is a “question mark story”. I don’t know my origins, because I don’t have the story of my ancestry. My mum has grown up in a social centre (like wise my sister and me). My grandmother has abandoned her. Then, she has go in a foster family. Later, my mum wanted to search for her father, so she had go see my grandmother, but without result, because my grandmother was a prostitute, she doesn’t really know who is my grandfather. Maybe, it’s this hole in my family tree whereby I’m so interested in migration.

I have worked for the association “SOS Racisme” and I met a lot of people and a lot of stories. And I’m often shocked to see the way they are treated. Dalila Mahdjoub, who has contributed as well to the thematic week, said (about imprisonment of migrants) “réprimé non pour un fait mais pour un etat”.  “Imprisoned for an identity, and not for a crime”. I noticed that too, — when I was interested about the squat of Cachan in 2008. I realized that mostly migrants couldn’t possess official home, and they had to open an abandoned house, and live in illegality. I search to understand, what’s the migrant situation, now, before and after. What’s the trend? And simply, where is “the problem of migration”? Do we have really a problem of migration?

 

 

** Please, can you don’t correct me? I am questioning the role of the language in the thought. Sometimes mistakes can explain the differences of cultures. And the crossbreed is a strength.

Thanks again, Tanya, and really nice to meet you.

Anaïs Clercx

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Photos: Tanja Ostojic
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Gare Routière d´Aix-en-Provence, France, December 16, 2015

In Aix-en-Provence, Bus-stations, Performances, Workshops on December 23, 2015 at 6:27 pm

On December 16, 2015, I conducted the “Missplaced Women?” workshop, on performance art, migration, public space and surveillance, with the participation of students and teachers of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Aix-en-Provence, France.

During the morning session of the workshop each participant shared with others her/ his own family and their own history of migration. Issues of identity, social structures, historical and contemporary roles and positions of art in society were discussed among others, along with the introduction to the “Misplaced Women?” project and the workshop goals. We talked as well about our motivations and expectations regarding the workshop.

Each participant has suggested and has chosen one location in the city that is significant for migration, and we all made together a 2,5-hour-long performance tour, doing, witnessing and discussing at each of the locations one individual performance.

The choice of locations was very diverse, as well as each of our own histories, like wise the diversity of contents of our own pockets and of each of our luggage that we brought along in order to unpack them during the performances.

The quality of every of the performances was very high thanks to the strong motivation and strong presence of each of the individuals, as well as the numerous interventions and responses from security personal and passing buyers who witnessed our interventions. It was one of the most intimate and one of the most intense one-day workshops I had an opportunity to lead so far.

Workshop participants:

–   Anaïs Clercx

–   Anastasio William

–   Lise Godard

–   Sigrid Pawelke

–   Tanja Ostojic

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Tanja Ostojic:

Gare Routière d´Aix-en-Provence, the city bus station, has been the location of my choice. Each time I arrived to Aix, weather I came from Nice airport or from a day trip to Marseille, this was at this station. I had with me my obligatory purse with portmonee and tabac, a cotton bag with few necessities, including a plastic bag with 5 mandarines. I have chosen one of the first available stone benches placing my bags on it.  I started with undressing my coat (made out of up-cycled military blanket), turning it inside out. Then I took off my belt. I took out of my purse and my bags and my wallet each single item, turning them inside out. Mandarines I opened one by one, then I distributed them to people around, to calm down security guy who was shouting on Sigrid as she was taking pictures of my intervention. Mandarines are very helpful when one is on the road. Good for thirst and energy, practical to open and to share. A group of local youngsters gathered around and most of us engaged in conversation with them after the performance. It came up that actually none of them was really local thanks to the very rich family migration histories.

As soon as we left the station we came by a women who has discovered some nice clothes for two of her kids in plastic bags next to the container. She took each piece of clothes out of the bag, looked if it was proper, nice, in the right size, and ones she decided for it, she arranged it temporarily on near by railing. I observed attentively the way she was doing it and took discretely one picture of her from behind. She turned to me and as I confirmed to speak Italian, she explained her migration and family story, and asked for mine. She asked me as well for a change and I asked her to take another snap-shot of her. And so we had a friendly and positive exchange.

 

Photos: Sigrid Pawelke / Tanja Ostojic

Video: Sigrid Pawelke

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