Through years of dialogue with people in all manner of places across Europe, it has become apparent not only that there is a great need to discuss what home might mean in today’s rapidly changing world, but also that these conversations in reality tend to revolve around different forms of homelessness. Home increasingly seems to be experienced as an absence, as something missed, and so desired, rather than as a grounding presence: longing rather than belonging.
While the many novel ways in which people are searching for their own ‘place’ suggests the potential for a rich new tapestry of plural belongings, it should not be forgotten that social innovation is also a response to the failure of conventional social structures, and the frequency at which we are required to respond and adapt to changing circumstances appears to keep increasing. Whether through war, urbanisation, gentrification, poverty or precarious work conditions, more and more of us find ourselves on the move through landscapes at once both familiar and unstable, landscapes that are both expressions of these social conditions and actual drivers of them. Everyone always wants to know, "where you from?" but how many of us would recognise those places?
A child is born between two empty landscapes, east and west, past and future, and both extend away into a distant haze, obscure and inaccessible, desert and ocean. In their void are infinite images, disorientating memories from other people’s lives, the only landmarks to navigate by.
So begins a journey from the rubble of the east towards the fading promises of the west, traversing a changing world where the hope of something better pulls people closer together into ever greater isolation — and where a sense of belonging relates ever less to the senses.
An ancient forest is torn down with an ancient city. A new wild of bush and bramble sprawls parallel to the concrete towers of a construction boom. A vast field of grain falls silent as voices are drowned out by the scale of an urban chorus. And a willow, washed away in the storm that follows, sends one more shoot into the air and one more root down into the dust.
BERTH SONGS is a voyage in search of home in the wake of a personal loss. But traversing landscapes of collective loss reveals there can be no way back, nor forwards, without mourning.
a photo essay
Through the revelation of a series of landscapes, FORREST explores how our sense of home is changing in a context of abrupt social and environmental upheaval. While the written pieces collected as BERTH SONGS form a more intimate response to these questions, the accompanying three-part photo essay EXPLODE/EXSCAPE/EXTRACT transforms the research into a journey of the collective imagination. Places photographed along various migrant routes across Europe are repositioned to express the feelings of disorientation and displacement recounted by many of those met along the way, whatever their social background.
WITH THEIR DEPARTURE WAS BORN THE DREAM OF A RETURN
2 October 2021 - 9 January 2022, Museum of Natural History, Vicenza
As part of the festival Vicenza e la Montagna, WITH THEIR DEPARTURE WAS BORN THE DREAM OF A RETURN explores our changing relationship with the mountains now that most of us live in the city. The exhibition combines text, video, installation, and a series of photographs to highlight the contrast between the inherent presence of the mountain and the inherent absence of abandoned mountain villages, that together, seen from afar, form a powerful dream of an increasingly distant nature.
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