MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘right to travel’

Misplaced Man? performance in Aberdeen Airport – Contribution by Amy Bryzgel

In Aberdeen, Airports, Border, Performances, Signs on December 8, 2015 at 8:33 am

One question I always had in my mind with regard to Misplaced Women? was: what about Misplaced Men? Of course, I am aware that Tanja’s work focuses on women because they are perhaps the most vulnerable in situations related to migrations, most notably with regard to trafficking, humiliation, and separation from families. And those who know Tanja’s work also know that she does not deal exclusively with women. Her film, Sans Papiers (2004, together with David Rych), tells the stories of many men being held in detention centres in Germany. So, when the opportunity arose, I decided to stage a Misplaced Man? performance in Aberdeen.

 

IMG_2331

Misplaced Man? sign. Aberdeen Airport. Sign and photograph by Amy Bryzgel.

In the summer of 2015 I started organizing a conference that would involve both research talks and performances. I wanted to have a performance that would take place in the context of the presentation of papers, one that would disrupt the rhythm of the lectures. I immediately thought of Branko Milisković’s work, specifically his performance The Speech, which is part one of a two-part performance. Branko’s speech usually lasts around 4 hours, but given the time and space of the conference, and that this would be just one presentation of many, I asked him to do just 45 minutes of it. I wrote to invite him, and he agreed.

 

I knew, when I invited Branko, that as a Serbian passport holder, he would need a visa to the UK. As a US citizen (who has now naturalized in the UK), I knew all too well the complicated procedures for obtaining visas. And over the summer of 2015, a story broke about a group of performance artists from Georgia who were all denied visas to travel to the UK to participate in a performance art festival. Of course, I didn’t know the reasons behind that decision, but it was enough to give me pause about inviting Branko. But, I decided that I didn’t want to make an artistic decision based on nationality or bureaucratic procedures. That said, in inviting Branko, I was also aware that I was putting him in a situation that would be very trying for him—because although I could provide some help and support for his visa application, the burden was entirely on him to collect and submit the papers, to surrender his passport, and to wait for the decision as to whether his application deemed him worthy to enter and perform in the UK.

 

From the time that I invited Branko, on June 10, 2015, until the day that he received his visa on September 9, 2015, around one hundred emails were exchanged, regarding Branko’s visa. No art was discussed during this time. There was no discussion about the content of his speech, the logistics of his performance, how it would fit into the programme—nothing. It was not simply that we put off planning the performance until it was confirmed that he could come to the UK, but that there was simply no mental space or energy for either of us to do so. As the process went on, I felt worse and worse about putting Branko in that situation, as it was clearly very stressful for him, but wondered what choice I had: either I didn’t invite an artist that I thought was very talented and would make a valuable contribution to the conference simply based on the passport he held, or, I would undertake this task, knowing that it would put the artist under pressure.

 

IMG_2333

Branko Miliskovic, Misplaced Man? performance, Aberdeen Airport, UK, October 29, 2015.

In the end, we were successful, and from my view while I was glad we both took the risk, of course the process could, and should, have been easier and less stressful. But, because we are in the arts, we decided to use our power of expression to bring these issues into the public sphere in a different way. I proposed that Branko do a version of Misplaced Women? as a Misplaced Man? He is pictured here at Aberdeen Airport, just after having been cleared entry into the UK. Interestingly, he is standing in front of a picture of Dunnottar Castle, where I had taken Tanja when she was in Aberdeen in April 2015. Above him, a sign reads “currency exchange.” In fact, it was art that was Branko’s currency—his cultural capital is what enabled him to receive a visa to the UK and do his first performance there. I am glad to report that he is not a Misplaced Man.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: