Misplaced women?: The concept of hospitality in times of displacement
When I was developing the concept for my residency with Live Art Development Agency, my thoughts were constantly with the people in flux, those who were crossing or waiting at borders for days, sometimes months. Vivid memories of my childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia emerged. I remembered my school friends who were refugees from Sarajevo; my work in refugee camps during the Kosovo crisis; the lines for bread and milk; cars left without petrol in the middle of the road. More than 20 years has passed, but my body clearly remembers the fear, and at the same time the braveness, the openness to share, to give, to be there for one another. Many people opened their homes to refugees and family displaced due to war, despite being impoverished and affected by the war themselves.
It is important to discuss displacement along hospitality. According to Irina Arishtarkova, hospitality is a radical relation, especially when compared with tolerance: it provides a framework to account for the treatment of others with limitless attention and expectation, and it entails an active gesture of welcoming, greeting, sheltering, and in many cases, nourishing (2012:45).
Tanja Ostojić’s work operates within this framework, opening a hospitable space during her performance workshops. I though it is important to host the Misplaced Women? workshop, as part of my residency with LADA. Participants were welcomed and guided by Ostojić, acknowledged and their ideas were nourished. Anecdotes were shared, objects transformed, pictures circulated. During the two days of the workshop, I felt that we tapped into each other’s experiences of displacement and loss. Hospitality became performative, it was about slow decision making, about the labour of hosting others, and the handling of unexpected outcomes. There was a willingness to contain and to produce space for the Other out of one’s own flesh and blood, we all walked together by the canal, performers and audience at the same time. The days melted into one long discussion about what displacement means today. For me, the small acts of hope and care that each participant made created a ripple strong enough to go beyond the current climate of hostility.
My research will be presented as part of ‘Practice, Participation, Politics Gathering’ on 8th March 2017 at the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) and the Study Room Guide on Displacement and Privilege commissioned to me by LADA will be freely available online in March 2017.
elenamarcevska.com | lsbu.ac.uk/about-us/people-finder/dr-elena-marchevska
Featured image credits: Dagmar Bilon performing as part of the Tanja Ostojić’s ‘Misplaced Women?” workshop in London, December 2016. Photo by Aleksandar Utjesinovic.