MisplacedWomen?

Posts Tagged ‘#transwomen’

Berlin Contribution by Mad Kate

In Berlin, Performances, Workshops on February 2, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Wymyn who travel with me even when they are not here

Contribution by Mad Kate

Locations: Görlitzer Park, Berlin on 24.01.2018., and in transit from Görlitzer Park, Berlin, Germany to den Haag, Netherlands on 25.01.2018.

Regarding my participation in the Berlin iteration of “Misplaced Women?” workshop in the Public Space by Tanja Ostojić (January 2018) — hosted by Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin Weißensee — it was encouraging and supportive to be in a group of artists who were committed to doing these kinds of public works and gave me the confidence and framework to further explore an idea I have been interested in pursuing.

“Wymyn* who travel with me even when they are not here” I performed alone and made my own documentation using a timer on my camera.

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Mad Kate: “Wymyn who travel with me even when they are not here”, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, 2018. Photo: Mad Kate

I live across the street from Görlitzer Park and often speak with the numerous men who are hanging out in the park, many of them from Senegal and Gambia. I notice always the lack of presence of women and other non-binary persons in this particular demographic of migrants (the park is otherwise full of women and non-binary persons). This lead to my thinking about how some migrant flows are heavily male and why this is. I thought about the “freedom” of mobility of younger men, especially Muslim men, and the reasons why and how this affects women—sometimes related to these men’s physical ability to move and cross physical borders, to move as a single person without children, to encounter dangerous situations, related to their understanding of identity in relation to their community, their place, their religion, their view of autonomy as a moving migrating body, their community’s expectations of why and how and when they should migrate, their assumed responsibility to make money and send it home, etcetera.

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Mad Kate: “Wymyn who travel with me even when they are not here”, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, 2018. Photo: Mad Kate

It made me think a lot about how my gender is already “queered” as an independent, migrating body, whether or not I consider myself queer (which I do, in any case) and makes me stand out from other cunt-bearing bodies–“wymyn”–even within my own US-American culture, who face relatively more strict gender expectations of their femininity and of heteronormativity. The female* migrating body already has a relative independence to women who are required or expected to stay at home and are limited by their own communities to freedom of movement. The migrating body already has access to the privilege of “the adventure of” movement, even when and if they encounter borders who would otherwise attempt to limit their mobility, i.e., even when that movement is illegal.

As a response or way of thinking about this question I decided to dress up all in purple (in part as a ritual marker, in part as a symbol of the womb) and take the large purple suitcase my mother had given me, and I walked into the park. I decorated a large purple hat with photographs of the women who used to live within close proximity to me, whom I moved far away from 14 years ago when I left the United States. I know that some of the women on that hat have never had the privilege of leaving the country. I have thought of many of them as the women I write to in “letters back home”, telling them of my challenges and adventures moving away on my own.

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Mad Kate: “Wymyn who travel with me even when they are not here”, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, 2018. Photo: Mad Kate

Walking into the park, holding a sound recorder visibly, I told the people I encountered (most of them the men that gather around the entrances), that I was doing a project about the women we miss from home, those that travel with us in our hearts but couldn’t come with us. I asked them if they would like to contribute a name, an anecdote, or a memory of someone to my sound recording. One of the men shouted at me that I was doing some of kind of “therapy” and sort of made fun of me. Other men spoke to me politely but refused to contribute. Another person said he wasn’t drunk enough to participate but invited me to a jam session of migrant musicians. Finally one woman contributed, sound artist Anne Historical, but she did not fit this same demographic, she was a visitor to Berlin from South Africa. This was our brief exchange.

Here are some of the encounters with the men who spoke to me but did not want to contribute.

I found it disappointing that so few people wanted to share, but at the same time I felt like it was positive action even to ask and to try to make a connection that was atypical of the normal exchanges that happen in that particular situation of entering the park, being offered the chance to buy marijuana and either refusing or accepting. It’s not that I felt like I was “helping” anyone, but rather that I faced my own invisible boundary to break the mode of the expected relationship of consumption; I think this relationship of consumption alienates and segregates.

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Mad Kate: “Wymyn who travel with me even when they are not here”, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, 2018. Photo: Mad Kate

On the other hand, I found it alienating to ask people to share stories and face rejection, and wondered if this was too pushy or too invasive of an approach. So I decided after some time to simply wait and see if anyone asked me about what I was doing. I sat in the park for a while and unpacked my suitcase and stayed there and let it be. No one came to ask what I was doing.

The next day, since I was traveling to another country, I decided to put the entire outfit on again and travel to the Netherlands with the same costume and suitcase and the sound recorder. A lot of people noticed me and gave me positive non verbal feedback, but no one asked me about what my hat meant or whether or not my costume and suitcase had significance. However the performative act of carrying the photographs of the women with me near my head helped me feel their absence and appreciate their gift in my life. 

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Footnote: *the word wymyn is purposely “genderf*cked” to disentangle the word 

“man” from the word “woman”, and with the intention of being inclusive 

to transwomen, nonbinary, intersex and other genderqueer persons.

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Kathryn Fischer aka Mad Kate is a polyhomefull US-American sound and performance artist based in Berlin, interested in interrogating the politics of borders within and between bodies.

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Text and Photos by Mad Kate

Edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić, 2018-19 on the Misplaced Women? project blog

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Please visit as well other contributions and posts from the same workshops:

Contribution by Rhea Ramjohn

Contribution by Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh

Contribution by LADY GABY

Contribution by Ola Kozioł

Contribution by Татьяна Bogacheva

Contribution by Katja Vaghi

Contribution by Jiachen Xu and Evdoxia Stafylaraki

Public Presentation of the Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, January 2018

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