MisplacedWomen?

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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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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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