By Filiz Cicek, The Ryder Magazine, May 2011
"Home is where my foot is." Says a half drunken actor in a beer and life induced lucid sate of mind. He left his birthplace Mersin at the age of six. Berlin in Germany is not home, but a street named Kreuzeburg is. Birol Uner visits daily its one and only Tapas bar, chattering with his fellow actors and musicians, carrying on with life in between film shootings. When I met him for the interview, he had just played a lovesick drunk German man with Turkish origins. His role in Gegen Die Wand/Head-On/Against The Wall, in which the protagonist tries to kill himself in the first scene, is semi-autobiographical. The film won a golden bear for Germany in 2006. Uner plays gypsies, drug dealers, police officers, and an uber German. In his half drunkenness he quotes Nedim's Ottoman poetry randomly. His friends carry him to his feet to take him to his nearby apartment; a house covered in big shiny metal letters conjugating life in Turkish past tense perfect: -mis, -mis, -mus. The street, bar and the house are seem to have merged into same space in his drunken lucid state of mind. He walks home alone.
In 1959 two brothers flee by foot. One comes to Bloomington to settle down and to raise a family and raise awareness about the plight of families back home. The other stops in Dharamsala India, to create his spiritual home a new. His new Tibet.
In Universe In An Atom Dalai Lama explains that being exiled from Tibet due to Chinese occupation made him a world citizen. It freed him to claim world as his home. He smiles at oppression with compassion. The self claimed simple Buddhist monk goes home daily with his mantras, OM. He acts as a politician, cultural warrior, and ambassador of peace. He even champions women's rights in a Tibetan Buddhist way. And he is terribly worried that Tibetan culture might disappear. For when in exile, Tibetan Culture is his home. At a meeting last May with scholars, he explains why he wants to turn TMBCC, his late brothers creation in Bloomington to a university eventually; where Tibetan history, language would be kept alive, as well as other cultures and languages. WE must combine art, psychology and meditation to serve the greater good, he urges on.
Some of us never leave home, the place we are born in, some of us are forced to leave and to find a new home, some of us leave by choice for a far away place, and some of us are permanent postmodern cultural nomads. BloomingtonKatmandu (BK) reflects the impermanency and the mobility of the 21st century's ever changing geographical, emotional and physical borders that we humans cross daily. The local, international, exilic and nomadic artists are asked to choose and-or create works of art that best represent the place, the person, and-or the object that they call "home."
Art is my home. And like many transnational migrant artists, I consider myself a postmodern nomad. I don't have an art factory as Warhol did. Wherever I go, there I am, artist within. Like countless many before me I choose to journey away from my native land of Caucuses mountains, to make a new, in what I now lovingly call in "the cornfields". As a feminist artist, who is not a fan of organized religion -in fact have been critical of its treatment of women in general both in my artistic and scholarly work- I set out to take secular art to a Temple with intentions of both paying homage and subverting and transforming. Combining the nomadic Buddhist monk's mobile thangka tradition, together with Bulgarian artist Christo's temporary large-scale environmental works, an exhibition of prints, paintings and photograps will be displayed on long cloths hanging from the library ceiling as temporary walls and borders. Different aesthetic traditions from distant lands will be hence fused.
And it was an artist from the rice fields who help inspired the exhibit's theme. Prianka Rayamajhi's journey to home photos of Katmandu-Nepal, express how it feels to be neither here, nor there, a familiar theme for the immigrants and their children. Another migrant artist Svetlana Rakic from Serbian Bosnia, has tackled this very topic in her recent exhibit in Fribourg, Here and There. Here is both Bosnia and Bloomington. Where she now lives. There is former Yugoslavia. Like her passport, the country she grew up has expired so to speak, with the political winds of change, deconstructed and destroyed by war. It only exists in Rakic's memory, but it flows through her art.
She now lives in bosoms of nature and paints houses and trees branches and roots. Big, long, thick, strong red roots, which are, determined to reach across the ocean for the nourishment from her native land. And big tall yellow branches, joyful with sunshine. Rakic says, "Trees can grow anywhere....Home is not a geographical location, but rather a place that could be anywhere, place in which we feel at home." Her work reflects "the flow of life from here to there" and the symbolic merging of unity of the two.
As the proverb goes, when two hearts fuse as one, a barn will turn into a love palace. Prince Sidharta left his palace and made himself at home under the Boddhi tree. For Virgina Wolf too nature was a temple, and she was her bride. Dale Enoch will then erect a lovers' statue mimicking one of the stupas. Prayer wheels will host number 5 and 7, digital prints of Gatis Cirilus from Latvia. Vinicius Berton's street signs from Brazil will be spread through out the grounds.
Una Winterman's old Kentucky home is both haunting and grounding. For her traveling family, it is a place of reference, she explains, even if it no longer exists. It exists in a photograph taken long ago.
Yoruks in Central Anatolia move their tents in accordance with seasons, so do Kazakhs, Bedouins. Gypsies too move their caravans, crossing valleys, hills and rivers. Weather permitting, Sarah Flint will sing by the creek, with Russell Rabwork's eco-art as her background, of mini-wheat fields on fallen trees. Salaam will take stage under the big oak tree. Denis Powel Junior as a modern vagabond will be by the Lotus Pond with his guitar. Ken McGee will welcome you by the temple's ornate gates on the Snoddy Road. Baraka Kirtan and Kati Gleiser will be waiting for you with their music of enchantment among the trees. We invite you to visit TMBCC that day on May 28th as a place of art.
The second stupa's yellow walls serve as a background for Barbel's Rothhaar's digital Bee piece, from Germany. Buzzing in and out, the bees help create and share a home in and around artist's head. Cross pollinating the concept of home for human, animals and nature alike.
In the library, now turned into a gallery, James Nakagawa will superimpose archetypal architecture from different continents. He was born in Japan. Like him, we humans cross-continents daily, through the internet, via Facebook and twitter. We topple real life dictatorships, create cyber-communities. Jeffrey Volin then will showcase a collaborative piece with his son, re-visiting all the places he has lived, with the use of Google map and narrative.
A refugee himself, and an artist, TMBCC director Arjia Rinpoche have be writing "home" in letters in the languages of his fellow BK artists. Ex-Tibetan monk Losang Monlam and now a Dogan Zen priest Molly Whitehead too will share religion as a lost and found home.
And then there are those who never left home to make anew. David Ebinhouse will create a temporary yurt from fallen branches, thus paying homage nomads from Nanook of the North to the Mongolians. Those who came from other states to call Bloomington home, Amy Brier, Diane Knoll, Hannah Shuler and Shu Mei Chen will dwell outside by the pond and the temple with their sand in time and enveloping knotting ropes. Paintings, sculptures, installation, music will end with poetry and dance. Hanging from the tree are the words young poets Chelsea Prakkila and Travis Puntarelli and friends will recite stanzas. Ross Gay's poetry will be written and re-written in chalk daily by the khalachakra stupa sidewalk and carried away by foot prints.
Whether in ones native land, chosen home, or one of exilic, home is increasingly more of a state of mind in the 21st century. We create and escape into multiple identities any given day. A human identity, spiritual identity, professional identity, gender identity, paternal and maternal identity and so on. It is through these identities that we exercise compassion and fascism.
Home is then where we feel safe. We store those moments in our memory, which changes its colors and textures in time.
Home is church bells. It is the food in every immigrant film. A wedding ring on husband-soldier's finger in Afghanistan. It is a favorite folk tune to a Moroccan living in French Banlio. A kimono to a Japanese American. A soap bottle from a night in hotel room in Bloomington. It is the dandelion wine made with friends in Oregon, smell of lover's shirt in Mexico, mother's lap to child in Siberia. It is a headstone among Cypress trees for a poet in exile, Nazim Hikmet, in a small Anatolian village. A grave for Sarah Baartman at the foot of a S. African hill, where the air is cool and sun doesn't burn. It is a valley full of flowers to a bee. The snow capped mountains for the pumas and the lions. Home is where our heart beats, free. We all are born with that feeling. Home is within.
For more information please visit: www.bloomingtonkatmandu.com
Turkish-Georgian born American artist Filiz Cicek is an organizer of Women Exposed. Her work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums in Istanbul, New York, California, Chicago and The Kinsey Institute. She serves as the Indiana Regional Art Coordinator for the Feminist Art Project based in New York and teaches a Gender Sexuality and Popular Culture course at IU. After her meeting HH Dalai Lama in May 2010, Cicek created BloomingtonKatmandu.