MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘invisibility of migrant women’

Dagmara Bilon realised 3 performances on gentrification, home and identity in the frame of “Misplaced Women?” workshop hosted by LADA London, December 13 & 14, 2016

In Homes, London, Performances, Railway-stations, Workshops on March 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm

In the frame of Tanja Ostojić´s “Misplaced Women?” workshop hosted by Live Arts Development Agency London, on December 13 & 14, 2016, Dagmara Bilon realised 3 performance interventions which she has called “embodied investigations into home and identity; a protest against becoming a silenced and isolated as wallpaper, dedicated to the ever-changing landscape of London in the mist of gentrification.” 

For my first intervention I chose to unpack my heavy back-pack on  a street corner in Hackney Wick near the neighborhood’s formerly longest occupied squat. I took of my heavy rucksack from my back and start to unpack. It’s full of various objects, accumulated over time: my childhood toys, my children’s toys, things I need for work, such as gaffe-tape, iPad, mobile phone, cigarettes, wire, lots of stones to ground me, so as not to fly away, a black fabric sphere that symbolised the veil of grief for the loss of my father, white pieces of fabric that I use to collect my menstrual blood, pens, pencils, a toy-snake. As I unpack my bag it feels never ending. Bits and pieces of glitter, receipts, notes… Lots and lots of junk, but to me – a trail of my existence. All the objects are bare on the wet concrete floor. While I see them, I feel uncertain of my survival, slightly embarrassed, like a public emptying of the bowels, spilling of my organs. I don’t dare to look into anyone’s eyes;I start to pack my bag as quickly as I possibly can, stuffing things back inside my dirty old rucksack. But there is always something more, always something else spilling out…

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My second performance featured a surreal procession of a displaced female body in a red suitcase, walking in black high heels and black velvet tight leggings over a Bridge in Olympic Park, that leads to London’s biggest shopping mall,Westfield Stratford. In the morning on that day, I took my large red suitcase from my room that contains all my dresses and props from previous London performances. This is when the performance started. I carried the suitcase from my room in South East London to Hackney,down the stairs, down the road, and on public transport. While walking I’m reminiscing of my immigrationat the age of three with my mother from Poland to Germany, with one and only suitcase filled with our possessions. In my associations of a single woman standing by a bus stop with a big red suitcase, symbolises vulnerability danger, but also power. The power to move on. As I travel I notice the eyes of people peeking and then quickly shifting back onto their daily newspaper or smart phone.

Then,  standing by a bridge together with the group of participants from the “Misplaced Woman?” workshop. I open my suitcase and hand my items one by one to individuals in the group. To me this is a most humane and kind experience. To have my items held by others. I take off my golden sandals and step inside my black high heel shoes and through the two holes I have cut in the red suitcase. I squeeze my body into the suitcase and ask a volunteer from the group to lock the suitcase and point me straight over the bridge. I’m inside now, locked in. I can’t see where I am going. My legs are wobbly. The core of my body contorted. I want to speak: “am I going into the right direction?” — but I  don’t have a voice ‘in there’, inside the suitcase. Spontaneously, a member of the group directs me how to walk forwards. I feel even more powerless, cut off and disorientated. I have no choice but to follow instructions and to focus on my feet, to stay on the ground and continue moving forward.

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For my third performance, I shared an intervention with three women from the “Misplaced Woman?” workshop at Hackney Wick Overground Station. I chose to locate myself on the other side of the platform. It was not ideal for documenting the action. I deliberately wanted to experience the gap between us and the feeling of loosing side of each other as trains move in and out of the platform.

The last time I saw my father was on the other side of a platform in 1985.

I place my red suitcase on the floor and slowly unpack all my dresses and props from previous London performances. Each of them with a story to tell, the dust of previous locations, the smell of sweat or dump, and leave a trace of these items around me that for a sort of island.

I’m standing in the middle of the island and at last pull out a huge Cunt Sculpture. I stand up on the bench “on my island” and hold up my Cunt up high. A train comes into the platform. People are going in and out. A man takes a picture from within the train. The doors are closing. The train moves out again.

I step off the bench, pack up my suitcase again and as I walk over to the other side of the platform to join the others, a mother with a baby looks at me beaming and asks if it was a vagina that I was holding up?

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Text written by: Dagmara Bilon

Edited by Tanja Ostojić and Danyel Ferreri

Photos by the “Misplaced Women?” workshop participants London

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Dagmara Bilon (b.1981) is a London based Polish/German Performance Artist, Co-Founder of The Purple Ladies Performance Collective, Artist Mentor on The Talking Gender Project and Project Manager of The MotherHouse. Since graduating in 2003 from Trinity Laban with a degree in Dance Theater she has worked as a performer for companies such as Punchdrunk, Psychological Art Circus, The Bones Theater, Marissa Carnesky, Ear Cinema and Lundahl&Seitl. Simultaneously she created and produced her own independent performance projects including staged works, sight specific interventions and one to one performances. More recently she focused on developing performance actions that challenge the notions of motherhood and identity and exhibited work alongside The Desperate Art Wives. She has also conducted various community arts led projects engaging young people in the discourse of gender, sexuality and identity. www.dagmarabilon.com

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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

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

La Grand Escalier de la Gare du Saint Charles a Marseille, September 20, 2013

In Marseille, Railway-stations on March 30, 2015 at 3:13 pm

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1274395_10151597718535793_1380035907_o“Misplaced Women?” performance by Tanja Ostojic on the
La Grand Escalier de la Gare du Saint Charles a Marseille, September 20, 2013.
With the participation of:
Jane Kay Park,
Emma-Edvige Ungaro,
Alix Denambride,
Kim Mc Cafferty,
Robyn Hambrook,
Helen Averley
Patricia Verity
and Tanja Ostojic

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Production: Préavis de Désordre Urbain and Red Plexus, Marseille 2013

Bergen, “Misplaced Women? Marking the City” – Map, November 2, 2011

In Bergen on November 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

This the map for the
“Misplaced Women? Marking the City”
series of delegated performances by Tanja Ostojic.

Performed by: Pavana Reid, Mahlet Ogbe Habte, Gillian Carson, Kwestan Jamal Bawan and Karen Kipphoff, on November 2, 2011 on five different locations in Bergen that are particularly significant for migrants in the city:
1- Main Train Station
2- Police Station
3- BIKS, Bergen International Art Center
4-Western Union Bank
5-Language School for Foreigners

Produced by Stiftelsen 3,14.

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