MisplacedWomen?

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Misplaced Women?/ Misplaced Nature? by Camilla Canocchi in the Westfield Shopping Mall Stratford London, December 14 2016.

In London, Performances, Shopping Center, Workshops on February 12, 2017 at 5:12 pm

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s “Misplaced Women?” workshop hosted by Live Arts Development Agency London, Camilla Canocchi realised on December 14 2016, a very charming 10 minutes long performance on displacement of nature in the context of gentrification, in the Westfield Shopping Mall, Stratford London. She wrote about it the following:

Misplaced Women?… Misplaced Nature?

I unpacked my backpack at the base of a tree, planted in a flowerbed with fake plants on the top floor of the Westfield shopping mall in Stratford. Among my belongings were five bird whistles I have been working with recently and decided to play them, one by one, while looking at the tree, allowing pauses to hear a reply, which, as I expected, never came.

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Camilla Canocchi performing “Misplaced Women?… Misplaced Nature?” with bird whistles in the Westfield Shopping Mall, Stratford London, December 14 2016. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

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Camilla Canocchi performing “Misplaced Women?… Misplaced Nature?” with bird whistles in the Westfield Shopping Mall, Stratford London, December 14 2016. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

 

Call and response: it’s a game we play everyday, trying to communicate with each other, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Being in a foreign country, speaking a different language, trying to connect with people around us – this is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. When communication fails, it’s easy to feel misplaced, isolated, lonely. Some, like migrants and homeless people, experience this much more often than others.

And then there’s nature. The area of Stratford and its surroundings – where we have toured with Tanja Ostojić and the workshop participants – that has undergone a process of complete gentrification in recent years, mostly as a result of the Olympic Games held there in 2012. The enormous shopping centre, next to the Olympic Stadium with its artificial environment, was built there for this reason. Where is the nature that once belonged there? Where are its inhabitants? Gentrification misplaces people, and nature too.

 

Camilla Canocchi is a writer and performance artist based in London

Photos: Tanja Ostojić

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Teresa Albor´s performances, The Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick and Westfield Shopping Mall, Stratford London, December 13 and 14, 2016. in the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s “Misplaced Women?” in LADA

In Borders, London, Performances, Shopping Center, Stories, Workshops on February 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s “Misplaced Women?” workshop hosted by Live Arts Development Agency London and Elena Marchevska, Teresa Albor realised a series of two very strong performances on displacement:

December 13, 2016, The Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick, 2-4pm

December 14, 2016, Westfield Shopping Mall, near Olympic Park, Stratford, 1:45-2pm

On December 16, 2016 she wrote the following related statement:

Packing up the large objects this morning, the bright orange life jacket (child size), the beaded scarf, the soft black little girl’s jacket.  The smell— part smoke, part sweat, musty, human.  Then the small objects—into the orange envelopes and then the zip lock bag, the bits and pieces of jewelry, including the fragile, fragile necklace, all tangled up, hopelessly tangled up.

I imagine,the women who are preparing to be evacuated from Aleppo this morning.  They are packing up what little they can bring.  Little girls (perhaps oblivious), teenage girls (dreaming of a future?), mothers (thinking of their children’s needs).

Clio looks good in red so I have bought her a red dress.  Libby wants a particular book for her medical studies.  I put the red dress in a black box and tie a red ribbon around it.  I wrap the book in silver paper.

Someone else, once carefully packed the things I brought to Hackney Wick. All these objects once belonged to others, who took risks, who are hopefully somewhere where they feel safe, where they can dream, love, argue, fall out of love, make plans for the holidays.

The mall is busy.  People are trying to find things to give to others.  To make them smile, to show somehow—as impossible as it might be—how much they love them.

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Please see Teresa Albor´s video of her performance in front of The Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick, London

The necklace is hopelessly tangled.  I spend a good hour trying to ease the knots out.  First I try to soften the snarl, gently easing the tiny chain into a loose little heap.  Then I try to find the ends and see how long a length of chain is possible.  But this makes the knot in the middle grow tighter and tighter.  My fingers are numb from the cold, with little dents where I have been holding the chain.  It seems maddeningly simple.  I picture the untangled chain.  I picture it hanging around the neck of a woman.  She is smiling.

Tosha needs someone to babysit.  It’s not easy being a single mother.  She says it’s hard for her, now that she has a son, to watch the news, to see woman and children, the bombardment, their desperate flight.

I feel vulnerable sitting on the cement paving stone outside the Omega watch store.  Someone else has the power.  A man with a vest that says “security”.  Calling out names: Amena, Yana, Ola, Liliane, Nour, Kamar, Lamma Dayoub, Qamar, Haya, Zeinah, Aya, Nooda, Ranim, Reem, Asil. Please be safe.  What is the worst that can happen to me?  What is the best thing that can happen to you?

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Teresa Albor performing in Westfield Shopping Mall, London, (December 14, 2016. 1:45-2pm) Photo: Tanja Ostojić

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Teresa Albor performing in Westfield Shopping Mall, London, (December 14, 2016. 1:45-2pm) Photo: Tanja Ostojić

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Footnote: Clio, Libby and Tosha are Teresa´s daughters.

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Things I learned in the workshop:

The advantages of being our own audience: Working together, watching each other, making work for each other to see, acting as a magnet in public spaces to draw others in, acting as a protective shield when there’s some question about our “right” to make work in public.  Being open to each other.  Allowing everyone to be at a different point in his or her process. Observing each other and learning from each other.

Explaining to security: The art of just describing what is actually happening. “I am looking for something.”  “She is wrapping a present.”  The power (see above) of being able to focus on an action whilst someone else does the explaining.

Gut feeling + props:  The need to allow your gut feeling to direct you, to give you ideas.  To have the props but then let the action evolve.  But to still be able to edit one’s self, and question one’s ideas, and not to incorporate every single idea.  I have so many ideas.

Also, I wanted to say how much this workshop meant to me. This was a new way for me to work with these objects– the second piece, a way to put myself into the work, to make myself a bit vulnerable. It has given me plenty to think about. Once again, thanks to Tanja Ostojic for her warmth, patience, openness– for making us all feel so safe, and so encouraged as artists.

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Teresa Albor is London based performance and visual artist interested in how different groups of people negotiate the world. Her work is research-based and often involves broad collaboration. It can involve video/moving image, performance, installation, publication, community-based workshops, and forms of artist-led curation.

www.TeresaAlbor.com

www.TheThingsWeLeaveBehind.co.uk

www.Paradox-of-Order.com

www.Rufus-Stone.org

Photos: Tanja Ostojic

Video: Teresa Albor

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

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