MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘Aix-en-Provence’

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

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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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