Topic: Work in Progress.

Development Grant / Ontwikkelbudget

Topics: Work in Progress
Posted:November 4, 2015 by Julia

Thanks to an AFK Ontwikkelbudget from Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst awarded in 2014, I have been able to devote the past two years to research and developing a new body of artwork about making tangible my own experience of moving to The Netherlands. The working title for my artwork is 'An Immigration'. 
Conceptually my project was sparked by my own experience in 2011 of attending an ‘inburgeringscursus’, the intensive, required Dutch language course together with other immigrants from around the globe, including a Coptic Christian priest from Egypt, a mother from Israel, and a physicist from Iraq. Over the course of a year and a half in these weekly lessons, we shared our diverse stories of relocating, of leaving home and about tensions, sacrifices, and dreams. The experience sparked my desire to create a body of work that explores the emotional and psychological impact of immigration. 


My research lead me to Enkhuizen where I discovered my own family’s traces in Holland and became immediately fascinated by 17th century boats. The sails intuitively became my focus because I sensed they symbolized possibilities and challenges inherent in migrating to a foreign land. I was able to study the 17th century art of sail-making with an expert at the Zuiderzee Museum. The experience was deeply effecting. Beyond learning the traditional techniques, I absorbed and observed the materials in their context and realized that the boats became like human bodies in my imagination. I saw them as ‘embodied’ materials. The wooden frames and structures became bones. The tanned sails seemed like shed skins. The sails became more than remnants of cross-sea voyages but also appeared as traces of movement and emotions that reflected their owner. In this context, I was able to realize how much the ideas of fragility, time, and displacement were combined within the conceptual trajectory of my project about immigration. 


Intuitively, I decided to dip and roll parts of my sails in to liquid clay and turn them into ceramic relics/fossils. These ceramics are the core of the artwork that I will further explore and develop during an upcoming residency at European Keramiek Werk Centrum (EKWC Dec 2015 – Mar 2016). My developing body of work also includes exploring using old clothing pattern-paper as sails (animated through wind generating fans) and installing large groups of them as a migrating pattern of forms over walls. I have also been exploring making embroidered pattern illustration like maps, and using raw skins of clay to cover banal objects like suitcases. With this evolving body of work, I hope to reflect my experience of moving, which has been a mixture of both struggle and opportunity, of holding on to familiar aspects of my homeland while shedding old ways of being and embracing a new sense of freedom to reinvent myself in a new land.


An unsettling coincidence for me is how the current news is full of stories about the urgent and desperate flood of immigrants into Europe.  Especially noticeable for me at this time is the volume of public debate about immigration and how the complexity of the situation and personal stories get lost. During this time of recovery from an economic recession, we are witnessing an increase in tensions between citizens and immigrants –also in America- and a rise of anti-immigrant feelings.  As in my previous projects, I  would like to create work that raises awareness and stimulates empathy between people.