MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘criminalization’

Buffalo Border/Aubergine Kartoffeln´s Story

In Borders, Stories on February 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm

By Aubergine Kartoffeln

Monty and I were denied entry to the U.S. at the Buffalo border (beginning of December 2016), but I can’t tell you why. Not because I want to keep it a secret, but because the reason was kept secret from us too.

The first thing the border protection officer found in Monty’s shoulder bag were a few loose pages of notes, including four sheets with nothing written on them. Apparently, this was immediate cause for suspicion, as the officer said, “These four pieces of paper don’t have writing on them. Why are you carrying four blank pieces of paper?”

All of a sudden, everything we carried was suspect and seemed to pose some threat to the U.S.: “Why is this soap this colour?” “You only need this tiny container for hair gel?” “You’re telling me you wear these pants for fashion? I don’t believe you.”

Maybe we got turned away at the border because the officer looked in Monty’s exercise log book and smirked: “You do a hundred push-ups a day? Well, this guy [indicating to another officer] does a thousand.”

Or maybe we were detained at the border because the border protection officer couldn’t fathom why we would be making music and art on vacation. He demanded to know: “Why would you be making music on vacation?” When I asked what he meant, he explained: “When I go on vacation, I go shopping; I go to shows; I don’t make music.”

We sat in a waiting room for a long time through the night. We were each brought alone into a small room to have our mugshots and fingerprints taken, surrounded by four or five officers. We were interrogated separately about each other’s affairs, and questioned about our involvement with countries in the Middle East. Waiting is especially stressful when you don’t know what you are waiting for — maybe what happens next will be worse than the suspense of waiting. We already knew we couldn’t enter the U.S., but imagination gives way to all sorts of nauseating outcomes that make the wait even more excruciating.

An officer stood watch over us in the waiting room, his eyes fixated on old reruns of American Dad playing on the TV. I got the sense that these border protection officers really enjoy their jobs, especially the power they get from intimidating others, making people feel flustered and vulnerable.

Then suddenly, with no explanation, we were told to go. How did they come to that decision? What did they find out from their computers? What had they decided about us? What sort of threat did they think we posed? What will happen the next time we try to cross the border?

It bothers me that we were not given any explanation. It bothers me that we can not refute anything because we were not given anything to refute. It bothers me that the border protection officers obviously made the decision to deny us entry before they even finished their investigation, so that it’s very likely that there was no reason of why we were denied entry other than the officer’s distaste for the art objects in Monty’s suitcase.

Not that reason seems to matter anymore. I’m just glad we could go free, and that our lives didn’t depend on this crossing. I can only imagine how horrific it is to leave your fate in the hands of border protection.

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Monty Cantsin’s suitcase full of agitprop materials caught the eye of USA Customs agents.

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Aubergine Kartoffeln is Toronto based social worker and artist

Istvan Kantor alias Monty Cantsin is Toronto based artist of Hungarian origin

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Please reed as well the related article by Sarah Ferguson who interviewed Istvan Kantor related to the denial of the freedom of movement on the U.S. Buffalo Border:

http://thevillager.com/2016/12/23/rivington-school-propagandist-monty-cantsin-held-at-u-s-border/

She wrote that according to Istvan Kantor, the agents in Buffalo, NYC, became alarmed when they found sealed packages of hypodermic needles in his luggage. Kantor is renowned for his “blood art” — using his own blood to splatter walls in museums like the MoMA to protest the “commodification” of art — and has been arrested numerous times both here and abroad.

He says the customs agents were also irked by the megaphone bearing Kantor’s trademark “Neoism” slogan, along with his Nazi-like cap, Chinese security armbands and red flag — all props for the satirical performances he planned to stage.

Although Kantor has been detained at the border before, he says he’s had no trouble coming into the U.S. in the last three years. But this was different.

“They took me and my girlfriend to a special room for fingerprints and mugshots,” he said, “and that’s where the more serious questioning began — especially about my travels in China,” where Kantor has been teaching multimedia art. “They wanted to know if I had visited Pakistan, Libya, Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries.”

After three hours of grilling, Kantor and his girlfriend were put in a car and taken across the border, where they were forced to take a $220 cab ride back to Toronto because it was 4 a.m.

“We never got a concrete explanation or piece of paper or anything to explain why we were turned away,” Kantor said.

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

Jasmina Tešanović´s Story

In Borders, Railway-stations, Stories on October 18, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Here I am now as a wannabe European woman traveling alone. Because you see, women don’t travel alone; they travel with their men, families or friends. If they are alone, it means they are lost or dangerous. I always get those looks and check ups, even friendly offers.

I entered in the first comfortable train heading north… to even more United Europe.

Border officers were entering my train, checking us, and it all went well, until we managed to come across one small piece of one small country that once used to be called Yugoslavia, that once used to be my own country.

I didn’t have the proper papers, they claimed. Politely, they took me out off the train, and even more delicately, they locked me behind bars. A small prison hut, really, with two young officers watching me from outside with guns.

Then they went through my suitcase, then through my hand bag and then through my computer.

They were amused:

– So, what are you doing here, madame, smuggling yourself in our country without a visa?

– No, I wasn’t , I said bewildered, I was just traveling back home.

– But you took the wrong train, you cannot travel Europe without a visa.

– No, I said, I just took a train that happens to cross this small country, a nation smaller than the city I come from, a country where the plastic covers on the haystacks look fancier than tablecloths in my country.

– We will have to charge you with an attempt to cross our border illegally.

– But I legally gave you my passport. It was a mistake, my country split up and Europe united…you know, it was such a big confusion…

– We don’t remember your ex-country. The two young blonde border officers stared at me.

I looked at them. Of course, they were too young to remember or even know, why would they care, they were just doing their job.

– You are a writer, one of them says.

– Yes, I am.

– What do you write about, asks he.

– Stuff like this really, I answered vividly, crossing the borders, messing with laws and people.

He was taken aback.

– We must take you immediately to your embassy, in the capital.

– No, I must call my lawyer, you must give me the phone.

It was actually a moment of hands-on struggle between us: the European new order and non-European individual.

The young officer said:

– If we let you go into no-man’s land between borders, you can wait for a couple of hours over there, and then enter Croatia, the country you travelled from. Since from tomorrow, the visa regime in Croatia for Serbs is abolished. You could sleep in the no-man’s land if they don’t let you into Croatia.

– It’ s a deal, I said.

And we did it.

They deported me a couple of kilometers, into nobody’s land where there was literally nothing. I walked slowly, dragging my luggage to the border, which soon enough would stop being one. I reached it, I crossed it because of a kind officer who looked the other way, and I took another train south.

Then a middle aged train conductor checked my new ticket to the south.

– Didn’t you go north only a couple of hours ago?

– Yes I did, I said. I tried to reach to my same destination but I took the wrong direction.

– Don’t you read your tickets, check your trains?

– No I don’t, I said peevishly, as if admitting that I never go to doctors for a regular check up.

– Well you should madame, this world today is all about trains and proper tickets and papers.

He was right: I looked at his kind elderly face with wrinkles, the devoted body bent over his conductor’s heavy bag, his stamps lost in a smaller bag. I imagined his long-sought pension round the corner, his future life, that of a railway clerk in pension: a little bit of gardening, a little bit of cooking, and a lot of memories of trips, and people he met and treated, or mistreated.

I remembered Walter Benjamin’s suicide at the border while waiting for a visa that arrived only hours too late. A Jew trying to escape Nazi Germany: a philosopher trying to describe the world he was living in. Which Benjamin did perfectly: only he did not have the patience and strength to survive it.

By Jasmina Tešanović

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Editorial comment:

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This story has been written in Jun 2003 at the time when visa regime between Croatia and Serbia has been finally abandoned. But Serbian passport holders still needed a visa for Slovenia. (Slovenia joined the European Union one year later, on 1 May 2004). Jasmina Tešanović actually traveled from Zagreb to Belgrade. The train she took first was going over Slovenia, then she had to change to the one that was going from Zagreb to Belgrade over Budapest and where she would not need a visa.

Jasmina Tešanović is a women without homeland and without mother tongue, who lives and works on-line.

This story that she has kindly contributed to the “Missplaced Women?” blog is a part from her on-line book in english: ”My Life Without Me”. In Serbian language “Moj zivot bez mene”, has been publish by Rende, Belgrade in  2013. Italian version  “La mia vita senza di me”, Infinito, Bologna, 2014.

Marta´s Story

In Aberdeen, Stories on June 1, 2015 at 5:49 pm
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Misplaced Women? banner by Marta Nitecka Barche

 

I took part in Tanja Ostojic´s “Misplaced Women?” workshop in April 2015 at the University of Aberdeen. 
I was also honoured to take part in ‘ The Art of Performance’ event as part of May Festival 2015  at the University of Aberdeen where Dr Amy Bryzgel, Dr Adrienne Janus, Dr Lisa Collinson, and I performed Misplaced Women?. I prepared a short talk for this event about the performance and what it means to me:

To me, Misplaced Women? is a very peculiar performance. It has many meanings linked to my academic interests and to my individual experience. It recalls the everyday reality of migrants and refugees, of people who more or less willingly move between countries and cities. Their personal stories happen every day on the streets, shops, bus stations, and airports. That is why Misplaced Women? takes place in a public place without any particular settings. The idea is that anyone can enact the performance in ordinary settings among strangers passing by; just like anyone can become a migrant who needs to pack a part of their life into a suitcase and move to an unknown place. Misplaced Women? does not ask about nationality or political status. It performs and reaffirms the right of individual people to exist and to occupy space as human beings, whatever their identity. It calls attention to their presence, to their present existence; an existence often unrecognised or denied by political and national modes of identification (especially in the case of undocumented immigrants). Misplaced Women? lets individuals be present without asking about their place of belonging. This makes it a very personal performance to me. I have been moving between cities and states for most of my life. As a child, I moved with my parents within Poland. There was time when I changed my schools twice in one year. When I was a teenager, I spoke to my friend who said that she would like to move to another country, but it is so difficult to do. I said to her “you just need to go if you want to”. It was then I realised that I did not see any issue with changing place. To me it was as simple as going there. When I was older, I left Poland and moved to the USA; I did not feel I belonged to Poland. In my life I moved a few times more from one state to another. I have been in Aberdeen for over 4 years. I am lucky enough to be a student at the University of Aberdeen. I have also become a mother, and my son occupies his own space here. I like my life here and I want to stay here. I realised that “I want to stay” is important; I have chosen to stay in Aberdeen; but I also know that I do not have to stay here. I do not belong to Warsaw or Poland; I am not sure if I belong to Aberdeen, or Scotland, or to any other place. I do not feel I belong to any state and I do not like to be classified by nationality. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a student, I am a human being, I am present, I occupy space, I am a misplaced woman.

I  myself was subject to border control procedures in the USA. It was an experience of a particular kind of hell. I spent over 3 weeks in a regular jail. They called it “migration prison” but the truth is that I was there with criminals (I have never had a criminal past or committed any crime). They told me that my case was administrative, not criminal; but at the same time, I was handcuffed and ankle- cuffed. It took me forever to deal with this trauma; I am still dealing with it and I am not sure if I will ever overcome this experience completely.

By Marta Nitecka Barche

Bergen International Airport, November 8, 2011

In Airports, Bergen, Stories on November 10, 2011 at 12:34 am


I landed to the Bergen´s mist and fog well, after connected flight from Berlin over Copenhagen. The purpose of my visit here was to take part in MIGRATION, GLOBALIZATION AND NEW SOCIAL FORMATIONS – IMER – International Migration and Ethnic Relations Research Unit Bergen conference. 

On Tuesday November 8, 2011, starting at 13:40h I performed my “Misplaced Women?” at arrivals & departures terminal of Bergen international airport. In approximately 30 minutes time I took out the entire contents of my two suitcases, out of my handbag as well as out of my cosmetics and make-up bags. I took out each single item one by one, turning them in side out, and placing them all on the floor of the terminal on red SAS blanket that I have borrowed form the airplane few minutes ago.

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Tanja Ostojic: ”Misplaced Women?” (ongoing since 2009), 30 min performance at Bergen International Airport, Norway, 2011. Performed by Tanja Ostojic. Photo: Jannicke Olsen Copyright: Tanja Ostojic. Organized by Stiftelsen 3,14

Bergen airport security guy let me finish my performance after he asked if I needed help. Well, I said NO.

– “So, what are you doing here?” – he asked.

– “I´m looking for something that I need for my performance on the University on Thursday. Hope I did not forgot it.”- Was my answer – while taking out every single item from my cosmetic bag that I turned inside out, as well as all my tights, socks, underwear, pullovers…

Photo: Jannicke Olsen

Organized by Stiftelsen 3,14

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