FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 6.
The origins of my project work were born out of anger. I’ve stated this frequently elsewhere in this Journal (for example, in this post).
Finding a way to embrace that anger and allow it to fuel the project has been one of the harder elements of the process. Anger is unsustainable. Creatively, it has to transmute into something else, otherwise it self-defeats, burns out, or destroys.
As I’ve gone deeper into the work, I’ve realized that protest and resistance is the more generative and resilient use of that anger. It is less reactive. More constructive. Protest offers more of a dialogue between the self and the world.
What has been less clear to me is how that sense of protest might appear in the work.
Recently, I’ve drawn close to the sensation that the work is a reclamation of physical and inner space. For the migrants, the mixed-heritage, and the third-culture kids I’ve been working with. It proclaims an inalienable right to space and place. But, I’ve still wondered how my focus on food might embody my protest.
Now, I have the writer Olivia Laing to thank for answering that. Reminding me of something I’ve known all along: hospitality can be a form of resistance or protest.
In an essay titled You Are Welcome, Laing cites a response John Berger gave at a talk in 2015: ‘Someone in the audience asked him about refugees, how we should react to the crisis, and he sat there tugging at his shock of white hair… physically wrestling with his thoughts. And then he said: ‘With hospitality.’ (Laing 2020, p. 105). Laing goes on to say of herself: ‘I don’t want to write another word about Trump or guns or hatred. Instead I want to write about spaces where hospitality happens.’ (Laing 2020, p.106).
I connect with that ‘spaces where hospitality happens’ statement. Each image or image sequence I’m making can be such spaces. My process of making can be that. For example, in the way I offer up a collaborative environment with people. The way I listen to them talk about their experiences. The way I greet them at the start of a photo-shoot. Perhaps even the way I talk to myself about my own work. A constant invocation of hospitality.
It’s not difficult for me to comprehend the notion of hospitality as resistance. As a way to open to the ‘other’ consistently. After all I have it in my genes and direct experience. I didn’t grow up the son of an Italian chef and restaurateur without understanding hospitality to be so much more than just an industry.
To quote Laing again: ‘it’s about a kind of hospitality to feeling, a tolerance and openness that feels radical in its own right.’ (Laing 2020, p. 107).
This context for my work, this re-visited awareness, is powerful. I’ve been searching for a way to inform the work in the context of resistance. Resistance to the violence of our times. Hospitality is that key.
Not unrelated to this, of course, has been other parts of my ongoing research. For example, viewing the short documentary What Are You? this week. This discusses the experiences of mixed-heritage people in North America and broaches their concerns about acceptance, culture and self-identification. Although it highlights struggles that many of the interviewees have been through, it’s core message is one of a shared sense of the acknowledgment and power of being open to diversity. To me that is hospitality in action.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Laing, O. 2020. Funny Weather. London, Picador.
What Are You? (2019). [Online]. Directed by Richard B. Pierre. Canada: Richard B. Pierre. [Viewed 18th July 2020]. Available from Kanopy.