FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 1.
The journey towards my Final Major Project (F.M.P) begins as one of excitement and trepidation. The F.M.P is even more self-motivated than the modules so far and has less of a delineated structure. This week I have already found myself projecting forward to the desired outcomes of the project. It is creatively paralyzing to be thinking that far ahead. I have to remind myself that I need to continue with the elements of discovery and experimentation that have been a major part of my progress to date.
But, to begin, we are expected to compose a written project proposal. A plan for what I will be creating, and how, between now and the December submission date. I’m starting out by revisiting the original motivations for my project work to date and it’s exploration of belonging in the context of mixed-heritage and third-culture people. Digging deep into what I want to explore, to say, and why.
This has been the catalyst for some deep reflection on my history, memories, heritage, and the wider meaning these have within the context of:
- The fracturing of my community as a result of the UK leaving Europe.
- The ensuing sense of anger and loss as people are threatened by the upturns in discrimination and racism and, in some cases, deciding to leave the UK.
- How suspicion and abuse of the ‘other’ has become so overt again.
- What part my racial identity and heritage has played in my life – where it comes from and what it means to my life experience.
- Acknowledging that the suspicion and abuse of the ‘other’ has been part of my life since I was a child.
There’s a connection here with a post I wrote during my second Module (post here) in context with Vilem Flusser’s statement in a lecture that ‘the moment you step back from politics into image, you can have no point of view.’
This week, with the tragic death of George Floyd in the U.S. at the hand of a policeman, it’s easy to despair of the racism and division that have become features of our times. Things that were being challenged and overcome (albeit in too slow a manner) are once again stains on the progress of civilization. Racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and the belief in mythical national purity, are not healthy to the progress of civilization and humanity. Their chosen methods of oppression, division, and violence are anathema to progress. And yet they still seduce the finger-pointers and the power-hungry.
I am not comparing my life experiences to those of the many communities and individuals that have suffered the kinds of violent discrimination that are everyday occurrences in the U.S.A., the UK, and elsewhere. My life, though marred by versions of racism and discrimination, has not been so easily violated. After all, I am white. I can walk down the street without fear of untoward reprimand, judgment, or murder at the hands of people supposed to be protecting me. However, in the context of my mixed heritage, I see that forms of discrimination have been everywhere in my lived experience. I have always been, considered ‘other’.
I’ve been marked out for isolation by supposed ‘friends’ because of my heritage. Felt an abyssal awkwardness throughout my formative years and long into adulthood. Been lost in a kind of vortex of not knowing where my ‘home’ was or where I belonged. Isolated because of my heritage. Feeling welcomed and unwelcome at the same time. Been pigeon-holed and stereotyped in the playground, the workplace, in public, and in many relationships. On the more positive side, my surname is spoken of as being beautiful or ‘exotic’ – despite the various misspellings including the memorable Mr. James Bell-Urine. Then there’s the nature of my looks: my Romanesque nose has actually been a source of good and bad fascination (being called a “Beirut bastard” on public transport is something never to be forgotten). My Italian genes are supposed to suggest the myth that I am somehow an infallible lover. Or that my passionate nature is enthralling and/or dangerous. I can’t deny that I’ve used this romantic stereotyping to my advantage at times. My hormonal younger self didn’t run from the proposition that I was an ‘Italian stallion’. Until that got me into too much trouble (another story). But, factually, I’m a UK citizen born in Leicester. My life experience and development have stronger links with Britain than Italy. And yet my Italian-ness has almost always been the focus of attention.
What does all this mean for my practice and my Final Major Project? Well, I’m deliberately exposing myself to what might be seen as the creative act of my own narrative reality: ‘My sense of self, others’ perceptions of me, my reactions to others’ perceptions, the social categories that attach themselves to me to which I attach myself – all may be referred to as ‘identity’ yet… any discussion of identity always means we are in the presence of not one but many persons.’ (Lawler, 2014. pg 7-8). Seeking to quantify, through this process, the ideas and experiences within me that are substantial. That provide strong pathways to visually explore the subject of my hybrid self and that of other people too. Mining the seams of memory, sensations, psychology and, above all, anger that can fuel what I desire my project to do: portray an experience through a visual multiplicity.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Lawler, S. (2014). Identity. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Polity Press.
Mann, S. (2015). Hold Still. New York, Back Bay Book.
Budapest. 1990. Vilem Flusser: Television Image & Political Space. Lecture. Available at: