The window separates them and me, unawares that through this window covered by a mesh curtain I can see a family going through the motions on a warm, sunny day which could take place anywhere. It’s not about one family, it’s about all families preparing a meal on the BBQ while the children remain close playing their games unaware that to this person’s eyes it means that I could also envision closeness. Closeness that was difficult in my childhood. Looking through this window it’s a gift which I can keep inside me, and this is the beauty of looking through a window darkly.
Unlike economic migration, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration’ is conceived as a chosen attempt to express or address fundamental issues of existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner. This is not simple wanderlust or international travel. It is a motivated quest that is deeply resonant with the person’s whole relation to life. Grey Madison
As a young woman living in the South Bronx I always had this feeling of leaving home. Not just down the street, or to the next borough, or to another state, I wanted to go as far as my legs could take me. I wanted to cross the pond. Forty years later I was able to cross the pond to the Netherlands, however, after awhile it did not feel like home. Three years later I returned to the states only to feel that it still did not feel like home. My restlessness was exasperating at times. Then in 2013 my husband and I moved to France. France was always a favorite of mine. Perhaps because while living in New York I watched a lot of French movies, keeping up with the subtitles, but never really learning the language. In Gaillac, I took French classes, but it didn’t sink in fast enough, and I felt like an outsider. When people would speak to me in French and realized I was not fluent, they politely excused themselves and went on their way. It was too much work to try to understand my Franglais. So now I am trying to think of a way to create work that reflects this feeling of feeling alienated and displaced in a foreign land as well as the land I grew up in. I know at some point I need to go back to New York and find some semblance of connection. Or perhaps I have lost the connection to the place that nurtured my wanderlust.
And so I shall go deep within myself and think and feel and try to express these feelings through whatever medium I can. Ok, the challenge is on!
They say once you get past 60 your sleep patterns change. Sure enough for the last few days I have been having a war with my bed covers. Tossing and turning hoping that my eyes would get heavy and I get lulled to sleep. But noooo, didn’t happen. So what’s up with that? Maybe when the lights are out I think too much. Or maybe it’s the night time watching of crime shows, particularly British ones. I don’t know, but it’s got to stop because waking up at noon is counter productive to my creative energy.
Well today I got up at 8:00 am. Yay for me, but I was still in bed looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, and Flipbook. So today I will be super creative, at least that is what I am going to try.
My grandmother used to get up at 5:00 am and sit by her window in the South Bronx. She did not do much because it was not really home. Home was in Puerto Rico, but all her children migrated to New York, so she came also. At least in Puerto Rico she would be working in her garden, but living in an old apartment must have been awful for her. So she would sit by the window and watch the children play, and watch me as I went to school, and she would still be there when I got back. At least the apartment faced a busy boulevard? I wonder if I will sit by the window at 5:00 am in the morning? But wait, in the winter it will be dark. Maybe I still won’t be able to sleep. So what will I do? Take selfies in my bed? Watch reruns of Law and Order? Or maybe I will get up and write in my journal, which I don’t have yet.
Alas, I am getting up and go for a long walk and see if I get inspired. We will see. Sleep, it’s so over rated.
Some voluntary migrants are motivated in part by experiencing the home culture as too homogeneous or provincial. These individuals experienced themselves, and were perceived as, ‘different’ in their native culture and this contributed to a feeling of not-belonging. Migrants who are motivated by a need to be unencumbered, independent, on a journey to realise one’s self potential, could be called ‘existential migrants’. The motive is not economic betterment or only ‘escape from’, but includes elements of the ‘hero’s journey’ in Joseph Campbell’s words. The ‘call’ to leave home may manifest in similar ways to the ‘call of conscience’ that Heidegger describes below.
Greg Madison, from At-home in the Elsewhere.
Where is home and where do I belong? I am a stranger in my homeland, Puerto Rico, where I was born, and a stranger in the country to which we migrated, the United States of America. However, when I was growing up in the Bronx during the 50s and 60s I yearned to someday leave and discover other possibilities, other homes, other countries At 65 I have come to imagine what my mother felt when she arrived in New York City along with thousands of others who were looking for better opportunities for their families. Except my reasons were not due to economic desires, but of rich and diverse identities. Each journey brought visions of fluidity of self intermingled with others to create a third, fourth, and fifth self. It’s all about movement, fluidity.
My work explores the many facets of movement. It is not only about showing the journey, but also about what happens inside our minds when we are trying to come to terms with these feelings of ambiguity, isolation, and belonging. It is meant to be a conduit of expressions of existential migration. A migration that is synonymous to wanderlust, looking for a place where my identity will finally find that acceptance and belonging that I have been searching for.
She sits behind the window. Staring but not seeing. Only blurred images seem to flow through the frame of her window. She picks up the cup and as she puts it to her lips, the tears begins to flow. Another day spent in hopelessness. She is not homeless. She has a family that love her. She has a life that many would see as comfortable. Then why does she feel anxious and hopeless? Why can’t she just snap out of it? The demons inside doesn’t let her breathe, but she suffers in silence because she doesn’t want anyone to know that she suffers from dark moods. In other words she suffers from depression. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, it affects us all at some point in our lives, but we choose to shove it under the table. Perhaps if we were open to our feelings and shared them with others perhaps maybe many would have not have succumbed to feelings of suicide, or worse actually go through it. However, there are people who don’t understand and tell you to shake it off and get over it. Or perhaps they think you are weak and unable to function, but many are high functioning individuals who suffer in complete silence, and when they commit suicide, people are shocked because they didn’t see it coming.
My mother suffered through it, I have suffered through it, but no one can know your pain unless you experience yourself. There are good days and bad, but when it’s bad, you just throw the covers over your head and sleep in the hopes your dreams will take you to a happier place.
My work hints at these feelings as when I photograph empty streets at night or day showing aloneness and eeriness. Other times I do self portraits that perform darkness that evoke a sense of anxiousness and foreboding.
If you feel darkness, then please seek help. It’s ok, you are not alone. We are not alone.
As a woman who lived through the exciting sixties, there isn’t a bone in my body which doesn’t cry out for a cacophony of voices to be heard for what is happening to our world. Greed upon greed is overtaking the western world at the speed of light. But there is a flickering light where people have gathered in most major cities in solidarity crying out for change before the western countries become third world countries and the powerful become more powerful. Men turn on one another only to discover that they all want the same thing. That the powerful who govern should be accountable and responsible to those that put them there. To give back to the people whose backs are broken from the sweat and tears of their toils to work for the man so he can accumulate more wealth.
Yes I was a woman of the 60s and I protested like the rest of them for civil rights, for no unjust wars, for equality for women. Our children will be inheriting this world, and I shudder to think that their world will not be a world full of promise and hope. God bless our World and that it awakens from this sorry state into a world of promise and peace.
The images above are a collage of dealing with the chaos of today and coming to grips with what appears to be a changing world.