BETWEEN THERE AND THERE: THE THIRD PLACE OF BELONGING
Written by IPAK – Irena Bekić and Duga Mavrinac
The exhibition Between There and There: the Third Place of Belonging is part of the anthropological-artistic research project Between there and there: Anatomy of Temporary Migrations, initiated in 2016.1 The project relies on the potential capacity of the alliance of cultural anthropology and art while creating a narrative on temporary migrations. It offers an interpretative framework through which temporary migrants, as bearers of financial, social and cultural capital, become creators of new meanings.
Cultural anthropology considers migrant populations as active mobile subjects who continuously and simultaneously create and elaborate on meanings and values–from both sides of the border–by knitting transnational networks permeated with intense, multifaceted relationships and accelerated cultural exchange. Hence, by using Homi Bhabha’s concept of the third space, we view the migrant subject as a hybrid of a unique set of affinities. We approach his/her contemporary practices of belonging as potential theoretical and symbolic places of empowerment. Here, the antagonism between dominator and dominated cancel each other out in the concept of cultural hybridity, which includes difference and represents a constructive encounter between cultures, beyond mere narratives of national identity. They become agents of new cultural meanings, while the processes of global movements of people, ideas, and capital redefine identities within the space of one or several countries by forming transnational cultures. The manifold positioning of polyvalent relationships serves to warn us that the migrant subjects also skilfully skip borders, activate practices of resistance and negotiation, and adapt personal and group aspirations.
Transmigrancy does not depend exclusively on a factual physical and political border, but rather on the activation of the mechanisms of otherness that are also present in the countries of departure. Otherness sometimes emerges as a result of the processes of molten, assembled, and rebuilt practices of belonging in the own community. Therefore, connecting places and withstanding the distance, as cultural anthropologist Maja Povrzanović Frykman would say, means much more than the possibilities per se for regular and sustained social contacts over national borders. Being on two addresses requires new architectures of gender and generational relationships within the family and beyond. However, in this emotional investment temporary migrants are often left to themselves.
The proposed narrative of the exhibition focuses on different forms of migrant identity production. Končić Badurina and Mavrinac’s work Will Do, Will do… But How?! relates anthropological research on migrant domestic and care workers with artistic work and the gallery space by creating a symbolic home and semi-fictive dairy of the daily activities and practices of the work and life of workers, juxtaposed with legal and political texts such as the Convention C189–Domestic Workers Convention. In doing so the authors place the invisible and uncertain life of the domestic workers in the public domain.
By using a strategy of inverted proportions, Brajnović and Hewitt process a comparable intimate story of migration as a feeling of permanent displacement and not-belonging. Whereas Hewitt does it linguistically in her performance This Woman is Called Jasna, 08, using her own voice/body as a medium, in his spatial installation They Will Flee to Their Native Land, Brajnović uses authentic objects to create a phantasmagoric ambience expressing his own moments of temporariness: a suit on a hanger, an accidentally found film showing his face, his old artworks, and an unmade bed. Separately, however, he singled out the photograph Superman’s Flight, in which an excluded body has hypertrophied into the body of a superhero.
In Tonka Maleković’s video installation Body in Space, a migrant body, physically absent but implicated in presumed movements across the virtual space of google maps, is the creator of a new biography. In a thick choreography of movements between departure and arrival destinations–like a bus station, airport, residences, work, city institutions–it creates a hybrid geography.
The migrants from the movie Postcards by Ana Hušman try to occupy the place envisaged by the narration of a national identity strictly defined by political geography. A conversational stage play articulates the impossibility and artificiality of such an identity construct. By contrast, in using texts from the backdrop of postcards sent by Croatian emigrants in America since the beginning of the twentieth century, the author activates the field of transnational practices of care and affect as a re-articulation of social relations.
Five artistic projects crosslink the subject, complement each other, and chain into a narrative that is meticulously traced with the viewpoint of cultural anthropology on one hand, and is unfinished and somewhat entropic on the other. In creating intimate areas moving topoi, such as intimacy, language, belonging, identity, work, emotional burden, legal regulations, welfare, the exhibition transforms the gallery space into an imaginary space of displacement, hence configuring the third place of belonging.
1 The first version of the exhibition was held in the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, Croatia (27 January – 19 March 2017). Artists: Tomislav Brajnović (HR), Danica Dakić (BH), Larisa David (RO), h.arta group (RO), Silvia Hell (IT), Nicole Hewitt (HR), Ana Hušman (HR), Božena Končić Badurina (HR), Andreja Kulunčić (HR), Veda Popovici (RO), Sandra Sterle (HR). Exhibition design: Škart
Curated by IPAK – Irena Bekić and Duga Mavrinac in collaboration with Dušica Dražić