NIN TRANSIT

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"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." --- James Allen (c1900)

 

 

In Transit investigates the physical and emotional transitions experienced in emigrating from one’s place of origin to a foreign land. The work illustrates a personal discourse, exposing the residue of flux and disquiet that remains after leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar. What was learned, what was experienced, and what has been shared must be applied and integrated within a new environment. In Transit reflects on the relationship between the physical spaces (‘there’ and ‘here’) and physiological moments, it questions the corporeal, emotional and psychological costs of departure and arrival.

 

Hidden within the layers of the work is an ongoing examination of personal and cultural memory, both learned and imagined. There is also an unanswerable enquiry into notions of identity and permanence, into perceptions one develops concerning oneself over the course of a lifetime.

 

The physical manifestation of these concepts presents as a weightless, wall-less and somewhat transparent house, allowing inspection into what would otherwise be a private space This fabricated structure is simultaneously symbolic of shelter, home and the self. This fragile nest, flimsy and delicate, has been built a vain and valiant effort to contain and protect us from the unknown, loss, scrutiny and assimilation into a new culture.

 

Social and physical surroundings have a profound influence on how one perceives oneself. Whether in the experiences shared with family, interaction with friends or community, each helps us to establish an image of ourselves. With assistance, we fabricate our individual personalities, based on what we deem significant, either consciously or subconsciously. Our personas are moulded, subject to our cultural conditioning, memories and experience. Since our histories and perceptions are unique, so too are the outcomes.

 

Identity within a social psychology implies an individual sense of belonging to particular social categories and an understanding of the projected value and emotional significance of things animate and inanimate within that group. The work In Transit contains within the framework house 365 pillows, one for each day of the year. Each pillow is intended as a single day, a short journey, between day and night, public and private, asleep and awake. They each denote a yearning for comfort and security, both spiritual and physical. The pillows are each imprinted with an image of a single object, 365 domestic items, typically found around the home. Rather than items of monetary, public or political value, the items depicted draw on individual and collective accounts of the bits and pieces of domestic paraphernalia found in the homes in the place of origin. The images are softly muted, the faded sepia tones offering a sense of nostalgia, referencing old photographs such as might be carried and used to reinvoke absent loved ones, distant places and times past. Each object is in itself a vessel for containment, intended to embody the occurrences and individuals to which they are linked by memory.

 

In choosing to represent the more feminine-domestic aspect of home, I demonstrate a personal and deeper level of connection to the lost feminine. Many of the items portrayed are specifically those, which, by departing, one is forced to leave behind. For the woman as artist, personal history and connection to mother, grandmother and great-grandmother is passed down through whispers and demonstration, rather than through books or other documents.

 

Repetitive, undocumented and often without financial reward, women traditionally and historically contribute to the home by cleaning, cooking, sewing and caring for children. Much of the work done daily by women is intended to be undone. Washed clothes are dirtied and lovingly prepared meals are eaten. The currency in these exchanges is something other than financial or tangible.

 

Here, this exchange is to some extent also embodied in the act of making, the sewing together of each pillowcase. Using my grandmother’s vintage sewing machine, precious family heirloom, the performative act of slowly and laboriously putting together the 365 pillowcases was significant and is intended to represent and honour the duties aligned as feminine.

 

The pillows are each, over the course of a 365-day year, a journey back to visit a lost past and altered future.  When the artist is on one side of the world and home is on the other, while she sleeps, they wake. Through dreaming and recollection, personal experiences become fixed, as a series of moments. Each single image becomes a metaphor for the distance travelled, over which something has been lost or altered.

 

Post departure, there is arrival; a new environment in which the way we perceive ourselves may collide with the way others perceive us. In the smallest of things, more complex than words, names or spoken language, the innate and instinctual may suddenly become ‘foreign’ as individuals respond differently to the same circumstances. In contrast, although from different backgrounds, individuals may respond in a similar manner, bestowing a sense of familiarity and recognition.

 

The In Transit house is brimful of pillows, leaving us to assume that although some remain unseen, each bears an image, a recollection and a point of departure. It is in this space, between the unknown and the recognizable, where anxiety and fear lurk for the emigrant. There are things hidden, each from each. This ‘unknowable’ mingles with the lost and is represented by the innermost pillows, those we cannot see. They imply a fracturing of reality caused by the fading of simple, everyday rituals.

 

This work raises more questions than it answers.  What shifts in value will the material and immaterial undergo in a new environment? How does this change our perception of permanence? How do the lines on a map define us? How connected are we actually, to the land in which we are born? Is it possible to adopt and simultaneously incorporate the heritage of a new place into our own heritage?

 

In Transit speaks of the emotional and physical shifts that disturb our perception of the permanent, the mutable and fragile nature of collective identity. Through In Transit, memories invoking the place of origin become an act of resistance, defiant in the face of change. Do we ever actually arrive, or are we to remain ‘in transit’ in perpetuity? Here exists an opportunity to reencounter stories as interconnected fragments of everyday life in a globalized world. In presenting In Transit  I do not offer definitive answers, but suggest that embedded in the fragments of the past, present and future, elements of a personal truth must be continuously recomposed like the pieces of an eternal puzzle.

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