mary and margareth

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The starting point and the symbol of the Travel Agency project is a tumbleweed, a bush which, having reached maturity, breaks off from the roots and sets off on a journey. The first exhibition in the cycle referred to the first Polish immigrants who arrived in the USA on board of Mary and Margareth, established the first glassworks and organised the first strike to protest against being denied the right to vote in the first elections and to have their own representatives in the colony’s legislative assembly. The installation shows a graph illustrating a hypothetical route of the wandering plant.

The first polish immigrants, who settled in the area of present Virginia state, were craftsmen – experts in soap, potash and glass production. (…) They came to the British colonies in 1608 on board of Mary and Margaret and settled in Jamestown, called the cradle of America. They set up the first glass works and organized the first strike in 1619. They protested because of being refused voting rights in the first elections and the right to have own epresentatives in the legislative assembly of the colony. Polish immigrants won and even gained the right of property.

How to live with displacement. With something strange that springs inside us… For the start — a short lecture — Bernhard Waldenfels writes in his book Phenomenology of the Alien: Basic Concepts. Problem of an alien begins with naming. Nothing more ordinary then the word „alien” and its variations and derivatives such as „alien” (stranger/foreigner), alien language, to alien, alienate or alienage or alienism. Right when we try to express the word „alien” in other languages, we come across a diversity that allows to distinguish three significative nuances and relevantly — three significative contrasts. Alien, firstly, is something that exists outside of its own area as something external, what is opposed to internal (…). Alien, secondly, is something that belongs to the alien in opposition to one’s own. To this relation also belongs a word „alienatio”, what in legal context is interpreted as an „exteriorization” (Entäußerung), and in clinical context depicts social pathologies such as alienation/estrangement (Entfremdung). Alien, thirdly, is something of the other kind, different, strange, peculiar (…) in opposition to something familiar. The opposition external/internal indicates the place of the alien, the opposition alien/one’s own indicates possession, and the opposition strange/familiar — the mode of understanding. There is such a peculiar force that pushes us towards the other/alien place… A different place allows us to see ourselves in someone else’s gaze and question, eventually, our own otherness — our identity that reveals itself in the presence of something alien.

The topic of the Project travel agency is composed of several threads — all revolving around the concept of strangeness and alienation. Belonging to a place, emigration, embroiled identity of displaced objects and persons. As well as: „a city within a city”, unfamiliar space cut out in someone else’s space. A catalogue of potential places, a kaleidoscope of fragmentary pictures. In the end — the whole arsenal of strange forms to choose from, out of which one can assemble one’s own brand new form made to measure of a new place. What about traveling? — obviously it is not meant per se, instead, it is all about being in a different place, and not-being elsewhere. This is rather a dynamic state, condition, a sort of an effect. This is also a process. Becoming an alien in the static stage set of places. Eventually, it is possible to be an emigrant in one’s own country, society, family. Emigration is not only the state of affairs but the state of mind.

Definition of an emigrant? — here you are: This is someone who wears all his/her live right inside, overgrows with his/her own strangeness, in order to fit the surrounding strangeness. He/she is followed by the strange thoughts, accidentally sticking ideas, various in-stantiations (sometimes in-imical), various objects — such as replacement parts, portable between alien worlds, all kinds of dummies and adapters. All that in order to — somehow, imperceptibly — plug in to the right current of events… instead of being always against the stream Strangeness is a place on a photograph, a photo wallpaper, a collage of unfitting elements, strangely sounding words. Let us pose a question — what to do with one’s own strangeness, how to be in a strange, not-fitting, not-accepting, not-symmetrical to us reality. Is it allowed…, does it befit… to ask a timid question: do we still have the right to strike? This is not the neutral third person, deprived of body, gender and age, who differentiates man from woman, adults from children; this is not the transnational or transcultural third party who differentiates Germans from Frenchmen or Europeans from Asians. Rather Germans differ from Frenchmen, like female differ from male, and just in this differentiation the one who differs in such a way, becomes what she/he is. The one who is different, stands on one side, the alien – as the one that is different from – on the other side. Referring to the alien is located in this eluding the alien. The fact that this asymmetry is being doubled or multiplied, not in the least entails symmetry.

CSW Kronika, Bytom