Finding Home is a series of films, writings and reflections created in response to the following observation:
In the last ten years of the Hostile Environment in the UK-
instability, a lack of a sense of belonging and a desire to make change,
has inspired enormous creative response from artists that come from migrant backgrounds.
Led by artists and researchers Dr. Elena Marchevska and Carolyn Defrin and filmmaker Winstan Whitter, the work focuses on the power of this responsive art-making as well as the hostile political climate that provokes it. Made in collaboration with activists and artists across the UK and Europe, the films explore policy, acts of art-making and the ways in which CoVid has further impacted notions of home.
Including their own complex migrant backgrounds in the research and practice, the team acknowledges their own relationship to the subject matter and works deliberately in non-hierarchical ways with each other and the collaborating artists as a method for resisting a singular view of migration. This speaks to the vibrant and varied migration cultures that comprise the UK and defies what constitutes a 'good migrants' narrative in the UK today.
Conversations with Human Rights activist Seb Aguirre give insight into the asylum seeking process.
Performers Peter and Mohand from PSYCHEDelight theatre company portray an impossible return home on stage.
Conceptual artist Khaled Barakeh suspends his entire studio in a metaphoric study of his own groundlessness.
created with Sebastian Aguirre
Mechanisms of migration control continue to consign migrants upon their arrival to sectors of the economy where there is a demand for racialized and exploitable migrant labour. As scholars have remarked on several occasions, border controls and visa-regimes do not prevent people from moving from their countries of origin nor from reaching the EU (Andreas and Snyder, 2000; Mezzadra and Rigo, 2003). Rather, they increase undocumented modes of travel, the involvement of trafficking networks and profit for third parties (Koslowski, 2001; Andrijasevic, 2003). Furthermore, restrictive residency and labour regulations throughout the EU restrain the social and labour mobility of migrants and fix them to an exploitative, illogical system.
As part of our research into this issue, we met with Sebastian Aguirre, a human rights activist and theatre practitioner from the Chilean refugee diaspora living in the UK. He runs Actors For Human Rights (AFHR), a project at Ice&Fire theatre which uses documentary and verbatim theatre to engage a variety of audiences across the UK on human rights issues.
In this video, Sebastian explains the asylum-seeking process to us using a creative exercise. We hear about a system in UK that is harrowing, shocking and disturbing. But we also hear about human beings who are showing remarkable resilience and dignity despite being thrown into a system which is arduous, deliberately complicated, and often incredibly lengthy.
created with Sophie Besse,
Mohand Hasb Alrsol Badr and Peter Pearson of
PSYCHEdelight Theatre company
Real life friends and performers Mohand and Peter met working together with theatre company, PSYCHEdelight.
PSYCHEdelight is a participatory Theatre Company of Sanctuary founded in 2011 by Sophie Besse, a playwright and theatre director trained in both drama and therapy. We met with them to discuss their work on a developing piece called 'Mohand and Peter.' We also were invited to observe their rehearsal process and attend their first showing at Theatre Deli in November, 2019. The following short film summarizes some of our discussions about home, art, traveling, prejudice and language.
created with Khaled Barakeh
Khaled Barakeh is a visual and conceptual artist and activist, originally from Syria, and based in Berlin. We met him in London in 2019 while he was presenting his work and have since embarked on conversations about how art can often speak more powerfully to the complexities of the refugee crisis. In a specific desire to move past 'talking head' documentaries that can often further marginalise refugees, we have considered how to present a work of art for 'Finding Home' that would illuminate how migration stories are part of who we are, but not all of who we are.
In these two films, Khaled revisits an installation he made in 2015 called 'On the Ropes.'
"Expressing states of anxiety and instability, every item and piece of furniture in the artist’s studio was suspended 15 cm above the ground by invisible fishing wire. Opened to the public, the studio was transformed into a gallery space, and the artwork morphed into a stage of its own, allowing the audience to walk through emotions that are usually hidden away and viewed as a sign of vulnerability" (Barakeh, 2020)
Reflecting back on this project- its original showing in Berlin and iterative showing in Paris- Barakeh shares with us a mesmerising reflection on the constant presence of absence.
created with d'Bi Anitafrika, Carolyn Defrin, Mojisola Elufowoju, Josie Gardner, Caroline Lenette, Elena Marchevska and Winstan Whitter.
Our final stages of creative research were affected by the Covid crisis. Consequently, we decided to experiment with our capacity to be creative virtually. Inviting our collaborators to create short films based on our themes of ‘home’ in relation to migration, we now asked them (and ourselves) to consider how these ideas took on new meaning as we all spent much more time ‘at home’ during the pandemic. How, as artists, do we navigate home in our practice and navigate practice in our home?
Daily meals, walks and domestic objects became the lens through which we could reflect on home, art and migration. Each collaborating artist received a set of instructions. We then edited these home-made films together in the omnibus above.
We invite anyone to use these instructions in an educational or community setting. (We kindly just ask that you acknowledge our work properly).
Dr. Elena Marchevska
Elena is a practitioner, academic and researcher interested in new historical discontinuities that have emerged in post-capitalist and post-socialist transition. She is researching and writing extensively on the issues of belonging, displacement, the border and intergenerational trauma. Her artistic work explores borders and stories that emerge from living in transition. She is an Associate Professor in Performance Studies at London South Bank University. In 2017, A/Prof Marchevska was a researcher in residence at Live Art Development Agency’s Study Room, exploring Live Art practices and methodologies in relation to the experiences of the displaced. In 2018, she finished a two-year Horizon2020 funded study conducted in collaboration with Dr Ana Vilenica, that looked at the role of socially-engaged art within the framework of housing crises in Europe, by focusing on two cities: Belgrade, Serbia and London, UK. A publication of the results titled Art and Housing Struggles will be published in 2019 by IntellectPress.
Dr. Carolyn Defrin
Carolyn is an artist and researcher currently focused on subject matter related to migration, intergenerational connection, feminism, nature and care. Originally from the US, and currently based in London, UK- she works across video installation and theatre practices. She holds an MA in performance and design from Central Saint Martins and has just completed a collaborative PhD with London South Bank University and Hammersmith United Charities which explored relationships between funders, artists and local vulnerable communities. She is the co-founder of Kissing Project (a multimedia platform for stories and experiences that celebrates diverse humanity) and an original founding member of The House Theatre of Chicago. Recent work includes 3rd Nature (performingborders/LADA), Kissing Rebellion (Ovalhouse, Albany theatre) Moving: Portraits Between Time (Westfield Shopping Centre, St. Paul’s Centre) Remembering the Future (Borough Road Gallery) and The Balloon (The Yard, Barbican Hackathon).
Winstan is an award-winning director, cinematographer and film editor with expert technical abilities and over 20 years of professional experience in broadcast, cinema and online. Clients included Sony, Rapha, Remy Martin, Mountain Dew, V&A Museum. His work as a director and editor began in 1998 producing the critically acclaimed documentary feature ‘Rollin’ Through the Decades’ with its world premier at the BFI. His second doc feature ‘Legacy in the Dust: The Four Aces Story’ premiered at the BFI in 2008 as part of the Roots & Shoots series. His latest documentary ‘You Can’t Move History’ won the Arts & Humanities Research Council award for ‘Best Research in Documentary’ at BAFTA in 2016. As a cinematographer he has lit music videos on 16mm film for artists like Dizzee Rascal, Estelle and Professor Green in 2002. He shot music doc ‘Marc Bolan: The Final Word’ for the BBC. Moving into dramas in 20xx, ’If It Be Love’ won ‘Best no budget feature film’ at the London Independent Film Festival in 2017. Recent work includes the drama ‘A Visit to a Family Home’ which won the Learning on Screen Award in 2018. He is currently developing two music documentaries; one on the legendary Acid House Club ‘Labyrnth’ as it celebrates its 30th anniversary and a film about how the search for the lost Jazz score ‘name of score?’ becomes a journey of self-discovery. Attached CV.