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Neck of the woods
The idea that the experience of 'home' becomes more explicable when countered with an idea of its lack was proffered by the exhibition, Neck of the Woods. The artists, Fiorella Glover, Marijke Thysse and Megan Wilson, sought to interrogate the notion of home from their different cultural perspectives through text, collage, sculpture and works on paper. The exhibition was coloured by the artists' experience of migration, travel and dislocation. The notion of 'home' emerged through the question of feeling at home, not only in this place, this country, but also in language and in one's body. Given the artists' project of exploring their origins, there emerged a sense of longing: not just longing for another place, but also longing for a resolution of the problematic sense of homelessness, unrootedness and inbetweenness. Herein the immigrant was presupposed as inherently duplicitous whereby transit rendered him or her not rooted to any place, but inextricably linked to a place of origin and to the past.
Glover migrated to Australia as a child, Thysse as an adult with her young family and Wilson is Brisbane-born. However, Wilson's series of mixed media images of letter boxes in western Queensland-invariably constructed of found objects such as tin drums and milk urns—were developed as she was travelling through the region. The question of how 'at home' does the city dweller feel in this environment remains unanswered. Her work presented 'home' as the address, the site where lines of communication end. These images of quirky objects were perhaps celebratory of 'good old country ingenuity' and sat uncomfortably with the knowledge of Australia's colonial past. Perhaps unintentionally, the images, coupled with extracts from Australian poetry such as "Clancy of the Overflow", reinforced the white Australian sense of home as staking a claim, an inscription on the land and a colonial construct.
Through the works of Glover and Thysse, sightly shifted experiences of foreignness and longing were exposed. Thysse deployed the metaphor of the door to describe passage and place, closure and disclosure. One's being at home became bound to one's sense of place, one's ability to form roots. In her installation, Doors, the words 'form roots' were scribbled across suspended, backlit door panels moulded from varnished white lingerie. The work's translucency suggested a sentiment of being neither here nor there. Indirectly, there was a reference to the body in which the sense of impermanence was transferred to the body. In this reterritorialisation, the body was invisible as locale and as a site of intimacy, desire and knowledge. Subsequently, the project of 'forming roots' was rendered problematic for there was no body image. Her simple, broken texts bore similarities to the efforts of the non-English speaker trying to communicate in English.
Through Glover's and Thysse's use of text in both their first and subsequent languages the artists demonstrated a radical strangeness and presented themselves as strangers in this country. They are clearly not at home. Glover's works provided a sense of hovering in-betweenness in which she deferred to language which cast her experiences as marginal and where comfort was drawn from the familiarity of her first language. English was represented as dictionary definitions and extracts or as oppressive blocks of text. Words such as 'foreign' and 'migrant' appeared as deterministic. In questioning "am I that word?", Glover attempted non-compliance. This accentuated how one dwells in language, how one is or isn't at home in language. For Glover, this appeared to be a precarious occupation as she was assailed by the more derogatory and painful linguistic inscriptions of otherness while attempting to resolve her personal sense of heritage.
This project of resolution was disquietening given current projects which focus on the celebration and exaggeration of partiality. Seeking not to be placed nowhere, neither here nor there, the artists have sought to reconcile the old with the new, the beginning with the end, the past with the future. Such an approach attempts to be conclusive, bringing closure. It perhaps might have been more strategic for them to leave their interrogation open-ended. The migrant’s sense of home is coloured by deferral to the discontinuity and split of linguistic, temporal and spatial experience. Given this, being at home might merely be a way of saying that one is in touch with one's environment and that one is provided a bearable self/body/image by it.